New video appears to show moments before Smith’s death

  • By KEVIN MCGILL and REBECCA SANTANA
  • Wednesday, April 13, 2016 1:03am
  • News

NEW ORLEANS — Newly released surveillance video shows what may have precipitated the shooting death of Saints defensive end Will Smith: Moments earlier, what appears to be his Mercedes SUV can be seen bumping the rear of a Hummer that stopped on a busy street.

The Hummer then pulls over, but rather than stop to inspect for any damage, the Mercedes pulls around it and drives away.

The lawyer for the Hummer-driving Cardell Hayes has said his client was the victim of a hit-and-run just before the shooting. The videotaped encounter happened several blocks from the spot where police say Hayes, now following Smith, hit his Mercedes from behind hard enough to push it into another car carrying Smith’s acquaintances.

Smith and Hayes — who himself played defense in a semi-pro football league — then confronted each other. Witnesses heard a few angry words, quickly followed by gunfire. Smith died with his door open, slumped over the driver’s seat. His wife, Racquel, was wounded in the leg.

The surveillance video from Magazine Street, where the Smiths had eaten dinner at a Japanese restaurant earlier Saturday night — throws another twist into the beloved athlete’s shocking death.

Defense attorney John Fuller has said Hayes called 911 while following the vehicle that hit him, and was trying to read the license plate number moments before their confrontation.

Hayes, 28, is being held on $1 million bond after police arrested him on a charge of second-degree murder. Police plan to add a charge accusing Hayes of shooting Smith’s wife, spokesman Tyler Gamble said Monday.

Gamble would not comment on the new video Tuesday, saying: “We continue to canvass the area to obtain and review video surveillance.”

Gamble has said the investigation prevents him from saying whether Hayes called 911 to report a hit-and-run accident.

Fuller insisted outside court Monday that Hayes will be vindicated once the full story emerges. Someone “besides my client” was behaving in a threatening manner, he said, though he wouldn’t say who. “My client has been pilloried, convicted and tried” in the news and on social media, he added.

Questions remain about what exactly happened that night. Police haven’t released the accounts of Racquel Smith, the passengers in the other cars, nor any other witnesses.

The news was hard on Smith’s many fans. The native of Queens, New York, came to New Orleans from Ohio State where he was on the 2002 national championship team, and quickly became a team leader. After retirement, he chose to stay in his adopted community, showing his commitment to the city as it recovered from Hurricane Katrina and supporting a foundation that helped women and children.

Smith created his share of football highlights, particularly in the 2009 run to the Super Bowl, when he had 13 regular-season sacks — fifth best in the NFL that year.

His postseason play included an interception of a Kurt Warner pass in a Saints playoff victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.

___

Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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