Driver Suspected of Shooting NFL Star Says He Acted in Self-Defense

New Orleans police are trying to determine how a fender-bender ended up with a former New Orleans Saints football star shot to death, and his wife suffering bullet wounds to her leg.

Suspect Cardell Hayes, 29, has been charged with second-degree murder for the death of Will Smith. The shooting happened Saturday night in the city’s Garden District after Hayes’ Hummer allegedly smacked into the back of Smith’s car.

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Hayes’ attorney said Sunday that his client had a different version of events and “was not the aggressor in terms of the behavior that happened after the accident, lawyer John Fuller told reporters. Hayes said he was involved in a hit-and-run crash minutes before the incident, and was trying to “pursue the vehicle in an effort to get the license plate number and report the accident,” Fuller said.

Hayes said he opened fire in self-defense because he feared Smith was reaching for a weapon, according to Fuller. 

Police are also investigating whether there is a connection between Saturday’s shooting and a dinner that Hayes and his wife had earlier that night with retired New Orleans police Lt. Billy Ceravolo.  

Hayes did not know about the dinner, Fuller said.

Ceravolo was named in a lawsuit filed by Hayes against the city of New Orleans over the death of his father. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount, according to NOLA.com.

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Smith’s wife, Racquel, has been hospitalized with non-life-threatening leg injuries. Charges have not yet been filed in her shooting.

Tributes continued to pour in for the couple. Kim Kardashian tweeted “My heart breaks for my sweet friend Rockie.”

LeBron James posted “prayers and condolences” to Smith and his “beautiful family.”

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