Will Smith memorial: Saints to say goodbye to ex-NFL player shot dead
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints will say goodbye to their former defensive end Will Smith following his shooting death during a traffic altercation.
The team will host a visitation Friday afternoon at its indoor facility in Metairie, Louisiana. A parade will follow that evening in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.
Family and loved ones will lay him to rest at a private burial Saturday.
Smith was killed Saturday night after a night out with his wife and friends in New Orleans. He was shot eight times, including seven in the back, the coroner said.
Lawyer: Suspect idolized Smith
Cardell Hayes, who has been charged with second-degree murder, did not know who the victim was until the next day, according to a defense attorney.
When he found out Sunday morning, he collapsed in the chair, attorney John Fuller said. Hayes was a fan of Smith, he said, and wanted to be like him.
“To be accused of murdering one of your idols is earth shattering,” Fuller said.
Hayes shot Smith after a traffic collision and an exchange of words between the two, according to police.
Lawyers spar over weapons
As New Orleans police investigate the shooting, attorneys on both sides are sparring over the discovery of a gun in Smith’s car.
Detectives found a loaded 9mm handgun inside Smith’s Mercedes SUV on Tuesday morning. Investigators also found a loaded revolver inside the Hummer H2 driven by Hayes.
Police have said a .45-caliber handgun they found at the scene Saturday night was used by Hayes to shoot Smith and his wife. That brought the total number of weapons in the investigation to three.
Peter Thomson, an attorney for Smith’s family, said the former NFL player did not have a gun in his hand when he was killed.
“At no time during this event, to my knowledge at all, did Will Smith ever brandish or carry on his person a firearm,” Thomson said.
Smith was licensed to carry a concealed weapon that may have been inside the vehicle, Thomson said, but he wasn’t reaching for it when he was shot.
Smith’s wife, Racquel, was shot once in each leg and is recovering in a hospital, Thomson said.
More details emerge
Defense attorney Fuller has repeatedly said Hayes is “legally not guilty.”
At least one witness saw a gun in Smith’s possession, Fuller alleged.
He questioned why police initially recovered one weapon from the scene, then found two additional weapons inside vehicles involved days later.
“I just find it odd that a homicide where a man lost his life, a man who left three children behind, that a gun supposedly isn’t recovered until days after the incident,” he said.
Police offered an explanation for why the two additional weapons were not found until Tuesday.
“It takes time to process evidence and these types of inventories are done in a very methodical way,” spokesman Tyler Gamble said in an email. “Homicide detectives, along with trained crime lab technicians and members of the traffic fatality unit processed vehicles yesterday and that’s when the additional weapons were found and documented.”
Lawyer: Witness fears for her life
An unidentified witness is alleging she saw something “untoward” happen at the crime scene, according to Fuller. He said the witness arrived “seconds or minutes after the shooting.” But he refused to go into details about what she saw, saying she fears for her life.
There may be a video of what happened just before the shooting, according to Fuller.
“We have reason to believe that a bystander recorded the events immediately prior to gunshots being fired, and that that footage was turned over to New Orleans police on the night that Mr. Smith died,” Fuller said. “We want that video, because I know what it’s going to show. And it’s going to show that my client is legally not guilty.”
Fuller said the case against his client “is the ultimate example of a person being prejudged.”
Gamble said he couldn’t confirm whether there was a video showing the moments before the shooting, but investigators have canvassed the area for surveillance video.
“We can’t get into specifics,” the police spokesman said. “We are still building an investigation.”
Smith shot 8 times
As authorities remain tight-lipped on investigation details, the coroner has released preliminary findings.
Smith was shot eight times, according to the Orleans Parish coroner. Seven of the wounds were in his back and one was in his left side, the report said. Several bullets penetrated vital organs, including his heart and lungs, coroner Jeffrey Rouse said.
A toxicology analysis is being done, but results won’t be available for six to eight weeks.
CNN’s Martin Savidge reported from New Orleans, and CNN’s Faith Karimi reported and wrote from Atlanta.