Cardell Hayes is the 28-year-old who was arrested and accused of shooting and killing former New Orleans Saints football player Will Smith, and also shooting Will’s wife Racquel Smith in the leg. The case was reported as road rage, but the shooting occurred shortly after Smith ate dinner with a police officer who had been a defendant in Hayes’ lawsuit over his dad’s death in 2005.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Police Say Hayes Rear-Ended Will Smith & Then Shot & Killed Him
Late Saturday night, after Will and Racquel Smith were driving home from dinner, their SUV was rear-ended by someone driving a Hummer H2. Smith’s car was hit so hard that he then struck a Chevrolet Impala. Cardell Hayes, the driver of the Hummer, then got out and exchanged words with Smith, The Washington Post reported. Shortly after, witnesses said he shot and killed Smith and shot Racquel twice in the leg. He then stayed on the scene, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
This wasn’t Cardell’s first run-in with the police. In 2010, he was charged with the illegal carrying of a weapon, possession of codeine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He pled guilty and received a five-year prison sentence that was suspended. He withdrew his guilty plea the next month, then rejected another plea offer in 2013. In January 2014, he pled guilty to a reduced weapons charge and received a six month suspended sentence, NOLA.com reported.
2. Smith Had Just Had Dinner With a Police Officer That Hayes Had Sued Over His Dad’s Death
Just before he was shot and killed, Will Smith and his wife had dinner with Billy Ceravolo, former New Orleans Police Department commander, and Pierre Thomas, former Saints running back. Cardell Hayes had named Ceravolo in a high-profile lawsuit over the shooting death of his dad, Anthony Hayes, in 2005.
Ceravolo retired from the New Orleans police department in 2013 after 25 years on the force. He was named as being one of several officers who shot and killed Anthony Hayes.
3. Cardell Hayes Received a Multi-Million-Dollar Settlement in the Case Over His Dad’s Death
According to NBC New Orleans, Cardell Hayes had received a multi-million dollar settlement in 2011 for his lawsuit against the New Orleans police Department over his dad’s death. The lawsuit was filed by Cardell and another sibling.
According to The Times-Picayune, Anthony Hayes was 38 at the time of the shooting on December 26, 2005. He had argued with an employee at a local drug store after his credit card didn’t work. After he left and was walking down the street, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy saw a pocket knife in Hayes’ hand and flagged down a police officer. A group of policemen surrounded Hayes and used pepper spray on him first. A witness recorded the entire encounter. City attorneys said the police officers who killed Anthony Hayes were justified in their use of force. But the plaintiffs said he was backing away before he was shot and they should have used non-lethal force. Anthony Hayes was shot nine times.
Ceravolo has said he wasn’t aware that he was named in the lawsuit.
4. Cardell Hayes May Have Worked Security for the Saints & Appeared on ’22 Jump Street’
Some people have noted that on Hayes’ Facebook page, he has photos from January 2014 from the set of the film 22 Jump Street. The pictures include him on a football field dressed in blue and orange and hugging Wyatt Russell, Kurt Russell’s son, New York Daily News reported.
The police haven’t found any indication that Cardell and Smith knew each other. But an ABC reporter, Meghan Kluth, tweeted that Cardell did security for the Saints at one point.
His friends were shocked by the news. One woman wrote on Facebook: “Cardell …this is not you. you were everyone’s teddy bear.”
According to friends, Cardell Hayes has at least one child.
5. Hayes Was a Football Star in High School
Hayes had a history with football himself. He had been a prep football star at Warren Easton High School, according to Times-Picayune. In 2004, Scout.com ranked Hayes among its top high school recruits from Louisiana. According to Deadspin, colleges like LSU and Florida had expressed interest in Hayes, but it’s not clear if he ended up playing anywhere. In 2015, he was still playing football for a local developmental team, the Crescent City Kings.
Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu said on Twitter that he knew Hayes. He said he had been a “coward” but he never knew Hayes would grow up to be a killer.