NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans police say road rage turned a fender-bender into a case of murder. The victim is former New Orleans Saint`s defensive end, 34-year-old Will Smith.
The suspect, Cordell Hayes is now facing second degree murder charges. His attorney says this is not an open and shut case.
No one is disputing that Hayes' Hummer rear-ended Smith`s Mercedes, pushing it into the Impala in front of him. Or that the crash turned into a shouting match between the men. And no one denies Hayes had a gun and used it to shoot Smith, killing him almost instantly, and injuring Smith`s wife.
“My client was not the aggressor in terms of the behavior that happened after the accident,” says Hayes’ attorney, John Fuller.
Fuller says Hayes was the victim of a hit and run moments before, had called 911, and was chasing the car that hit him when he crashed into Smith.
“My client secured a witness who was about to leave the scene, and my client waited for law enforcement to arrive.”
One other strange twist to this story dates back more than 10 years ago. That's when Hayes' father was gunned down by New Orleans police. One of the officers involved was Billy Ceravolo. The same man who had dinner with smith just hours before he was killed.
Cordell Hayes and his sister sued the city over their father's death alleging the officers should have used non-lethal force to subdue their dad. Smith's dinner companion was named in that suit which the city settled five years ago for an undisclosed sum.
This connection could just be a coincidence. But some are questioning whether it is something more sinister. Police are considering it in their investigation.
Meanwhile, Hayes is being held in lieu of a million dollars bail. New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison says, “We will build a strong case for the district attorney to prosecute Cordell Hayes to the fullest extent of the law."
Will Smith leaves behind a wife and three children, along with hero-status among football fans. He spent his 9-year career with the Saints and ranks fourth among the team`s all-time sack leaders. He helped them win a Super Bowl. He was also about to be inducted into the Saints` Hall of Fame.
“He got elected unanimously by our media-selection committee,” says Ken Trahan, Chairman of the New Orleans Saints HOF. “And that doesn't happen very often.”
Since news of his untimely death broke, other sports figures like Le Bron James and New York Jets' Calvin Pryor have been tweeting their shock and sadness. But it`s a tweet from Smith a few years ago that seems to resonate the most. “Wow, 20 murders in 26 days? New Orleans...please stop the violence.”
Sadly, not everyone was paying attention......