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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith was shot and killed in a case of road rage by a man who had rear-ended his car, police said Sunday.

Smith was beloved by fans for his role in bringing a Super Bowl championship to New Orleans in 2009, though the defensive captain also found himself at the center of the NFL’s bounty probe in 2012.

Smith’s slaying rippled across the sports world, with figures from NBA star LeBron James to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offering their condolences. James said on Twitter: “So sad man. Good dude he was man!”

There was no indication Smith, 34, knew 28-year-old Cordell Hayes before the deadly confrontation, or that anything except the car wreck led to the shooting. Hayes waited for police to arrive after the shooting and was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison would not say whether Hayes claimed self-defense, citing the ongoing investigation.

A magistrate set bond at $1 million Sunday evening for Hayes.

Harrison said the former defensive end had dined just hours before the Saturday night crash with a police officer who had once been sued by Hayes, whose father was shot and killed by police in 2005. However, it was not clear if that played any role in the confrontation.

Hayes’ Humvee H2 rear-ended Smith’s Mercedes G63 about 11:30 p.m. Saturday in the upscale Lower Garden District, pushing it into a Chevrolet Impala driven by two of Smith’s acquaintances. The two argued, and Hayes shot both Smith and Smith’s wife, Racquel, police said. She was wounded in the leg and taken to a hospital.

The Smith family said in a statement that they were thankful for the outpouring of support but requested privacy as the family grieves for a “devoted husband, father and friend.” Will and Racquel Smith have three children.

The couple had been at the French Quarter festival, an event that features local music and food, in the hours before the shooting. He posted a photo of himself and his wife on Twitter and Instagram with the caption: “Having a blast at the #fqf2016 @ French Quarter Fest.”

Defense attorney John Fuller asked for low bond, noting that Hayes had waited for police, owns a towing business and is raising his 5-year-old son.

Magistrate Brigid Collins said she understood that, but added, “I’ve also got a gentleman who was shot in the back.”

Online court records show Hayes pleaded guilty in 2014 to one count each of possessing an illegal weapon and possessing drug paraphernalia.

The gun he had was legal, Fuller said after Sunday’s hearing, noting that police didn’t accuse him of any weapons charge. Police spokesman Tyler Gamble said the gun hadn’t been reported stolen, but tracing its actual history takes more time.

Hayes is not guilty of murder, Fuller said. “The story that’s real is different from the story that’s being put out there,” he said.

Fuller said Hayes ran into the back of Smith’s Mercedes while following a hit-and-run driver who had rear-ended his Humvee and sped off. Fuller wouldn’t say whether Hayes identified the Mercedes as that vehicle.

Hayes called 911 after he was hit and convinced a witness who was about to leave to remain and talk to police, Fuller said. Gamble told The Associated Press in an email Sunday evening that he had no immediate information about the witness or the 911 call.

Hayes sued the New Orleans Police Department and six officers after police killed his father in 2005. The former officer who dined with Smith, William Ceravolo, was not present at the time of the crash, police spokesman Tyler Gamble said.

Police settled the lawsuit in 2011. The settlement is confidential, said attorney Ike Spears, who represented Hayes in that suit.

Smith, a native of Queens, New York, played for Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team and graduated in 2005 with a degree in criminology.

Ohio State athletics has “lost one of its best” — someone who led a defensive line that powered the team to the championship, the school said in a statement.

Smith was a first-round draft choice by New Orleans in 2004. He led the Saints with a career-high 13 sacks in 2009, when the club won its only Super Bowl. Smith’s 67 ½ career sacks rank fourth in Saints history.

He last played in an NFL regular season game in 2012. During the 2013 preseason, a knee injury forced him onto injured reserve. He was signed in the 2014 offseason by New England but did not make the Patriots’ regular season roster.

Smith was defensive captain for much of his career, but it was also that leadership role that landed him at the center of the NFL’s bounty probe in 2012. The league concluded that Smith and fellow defensive captain Jonathan Vilma helped run a locker-room pool that paid cash bonuses for heavy and even injurious hits.

Smith was initially suspended four games but, with three other players, successfully appealed their suspensions and were never compelled to miss games, even as Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended the entire 2012 season.

A year earlier, however, Smith served a two-game suspension that stemmed from findings in 2008 that he and several other NFL players used a weight-loss product called StarCaps, which contained a diuretic banned by the league because it was known to mask steroid use. That suspension was enforced after legal challenges spanning several seasons.

Off the field, Smith took an active role in trying to improve children’s lives, establishing a foundation called, Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way. Its stated mission is “to motivate, educate and provide opportunities for women and children.”

“The Saints family is hurting and devastated as it has lost a member too young and too soon,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement.


Associated Press Correspondent Rebecca Santana contributed to this story from New Orleans.

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20 thoughts on “Former Saints DE Will Smith Shot To Death In Road Rage Incident

  1. Where are all the protests? Where are the marches and night vigils ? Where is black lives matter and big al ? Where are the calls
    For evil gun owners to … Oh wait all that only happens if it was two guys of different races…

    • Really Jeff?! Let’s see a man is dead, his wife is wounded and another man may go to jail for murder. Three children for sure and maybe one more are left fatherless…and you ask where are the protest, vigils, etc. Believe me there is outrage and disbelief and many people are hurting trying to make sense our of nonsense. I really can’t believe you took it there, you don’t have any compassion for a man losing his life in such a tragic and senseless manner? Really Jeff?! This is why we say Black Lives Matter, because they ALL do, no matter how they are lived or lost.

      • Yes black lives matter … But NO more and NO less then ANY OTHER AMERICAN life matters!
        And as for compassion I have none for the shooter nor should anyone else. That statement will not hold true for every case but in this one a man was shot in the back and was not fleeing from police, nor was he a danger to the shooter, nor was he armed. Yet the shooter is only charged with 2nd degree ??!?!? Just think had the shooter been any other race how differently the news would treat it

      • Where are the protest?
        Where is the media denouncing this violence?
        Wouldn’t it be nice to hear something comforting from President Obama?
        Where are the “Black Lives Matter” clowns now?
        Lives Matter……People Matter!!!
        The lack of protest and silence in these communities sadly reveal that too many people living there really dont care about the lives of those around them.


        Sadly the “The Black Lives Movement” has divided this nation even more….if thats possible and took the focus off a real issue in America “Abuse of police powers” and “excessive force”

        Instead of holding hands with your brown, white, and yellow brothers to demand change…they made it a Black Issue again.

        Where is the police issue in the news now?
        All Lives Matter…

  2. Dare to speak the truth on said:

    Why don’t these ignorant assholes find an island to live on together and just beat the hell out of each other . They can’t live in a society of normalcy so they need to get lost because there is not enough cages to house these idiots .

  3. October 1 on said:

    What was wrong with saying “Look man, I’m sorry” and exchanging insurance info. The altercation could have ended at that point.

  4. whatever15 on said:

    Hello, shot in the back. Come on now. Don’ t waste our time. What is he going to say, that he was in fear for his life. That logic plays out with the police but when its black on black crime , the judicial system couldn’t care less.

  5. Timekeeper on said:

    Yes, think before they act. Unfortunately that is asking for too much these days. This isn’t a gun speech by any means but one thing the prolification of guns has done is take away the ability for anyone to walk away. Mr. Smith was in the prime of his life, walked away from the game healthy ( which so few can do) and living a good life. Stand your ground now means Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Yes, this guy was certainly looking for trouble, no doubt.
    Although I am by nature fairly aggressive, I yield and have no problem offering the right of way. Because I know ( and all brothers should know and at least be advised) that NOW, there are people out there who are purposely looking for an excuse…..

  6. specialt757 on said:

    It does sound like there’s some history between these two. What a waste of life, now four children are left out here fatherless through senseless violence that could have been avoided from the jump.

  7. Sandy on said:

    When are these senseless killings going to end. More kids left without their dad. For what? A freaking car accident. Stop the madness. Plz as an osu fan Will was a great player and person m

  8. Amber on said:

    Sound like this jerk knew Smith in some way either by tv or personnal (to even shot Smith’s wife in the leg). Sound like a jealous, lazy, nobody who is upset that someone was successful and doing well and driving a nice car.

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