Before you cry your heart out, I want to clarify that Will Smith the retired NFL player NOT the movie star is the one who got shot. This tragedy is no less sad and any loss of life should be treated with mourning and dignity. For those that didn’t know there was an NFL player by the same name as the movie star, he too was very talented in his own right. Smith played college football with Ohio State before being drafted to the Saints. He played for the team for 10 solid years before he got injured in 2013 and was forced to retire in 2014. As a Saint, he played defensive end and was known for being a hard and reliable enforcer. Just in 2010 he was instrumental in his team’s super bowl win. The entire team is deeply saddened by this tragedy and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said “This is such a tragic loss of life.”
Smith was gunned down Saturday night after a hummer driver, Cardell Hayes, rear ended his Mercedes. The two then got out of the vehicles to talk. After a short exchange, Hayes revealed a handgun and shot Smith several times. Unfortunately, emergency services could not resuscitate Smith and he died at the scene. Hayes remained at the scene when officers arrived and they recovered the firearm used to kill Smith. The police arrested and charged Hayes with second-degree murder. It is still unclear as to what the motivation of the shooting was. It’s worth noting that Cardell Hayes is a previously convicted criminal. He pleaded guilty for in 2014 for an illegal weapon charge and drug possession charge. Both charges related to other arrests back in 2010. He received fines and suspended jail times.
In addition to Smith’s death, his wife Racquel Smith was also shot twice in the leg. She was immediately hospitalized and remains there in stable condition. The police are investigating whether this was truly just a heat of the moment road rage incident or whether Smith and Hayes knew each other before. A man with the same name as Cardell Hayes sued the city of New Orleans over a police shooting of his mentally ill father back in 2005. That Hayes won a settlement six years later. The Saturday before Smith was shot, Smith attended dinner with William Ceravolo. Ceravolo was one of the police officers named in the law suit against New Orleans. It is unclear whether that connection plays a part in the shooting but police are not ruling anything out just yet.
The outpouring of emotions from both former teammates and fans is overwhelming. Offensive Tackle Terron Armstead tweeted “Tragedy! Doesn’t even describe the terrible news of the Nola legend Will Smith! Praying for the Smith family! Rest in Love Will!” New Orleans General Manager Mickey Loomis said “In our community he was an important contributor to numerous charitable causes to benefit those in need.” Smith was focused on helping others and even started his own charity, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way Foundation. The charity specifically helped provide opportunities to women and youths. Regardless of the motive, this is still a tragedy and hopefully this can all be resolved so we can all properly mourn the passing of a great man.