New Evidence Emerges in Murder of NFL Star Will Smith: Police Say He Had a Fully Loaded Gun in His Vehicle

Will Smith
Smith #91 of the New Orleans Saints Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Detectives found a fully loaded handgun inside the vehicle of the late New Orleans Saints player Will Smith on Tuesday, April 12, just days after he was shot and killed following a minor car crash, according to a press release from the New Orleans Police Department. Smith’s wife, Racquel, was also shot and was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The statement from the police confirms that investigators searched Smith’s Mercedes G63 and the Hummer H2 owned by his accused killer, Cardell Hayes, where they also found a fully loaded revolver. There was no evidence recovered to show that either of these two weapons were fired during the April 9 incident. Officials had already recovered a third handgun on the scene that they believe was in Hayes’ possession during the shooting.

Earlier this week, Hayes’ attorney, John Fuller, told reporters that he believed there was another gun present during the confrontation between Hayes and Smith that occurred before Hayes fired any shots. “My client was not the aggressor, in terms of the behavior that happened after the accident,” Fuller said, according to NOLA.com. “My client is of the opinion that toxicology should be conducted of all the parties involved.”

Cardell Hayes
Hayes Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office via AP

The New Orleans Police Department said there were two other passengers in Smith’s car who were not injured. There was also a passenger in Hayes’ vehicle, Kevin O’Neal. “My client believes that Cardell saved his life,” O’Neal’s attorney, Tanzanika Ruffin, said on Wednesday, April 13, according to local news station WDSU. “Smith had a gun and was going to shoot it and Cardell may have saved both of their lives. … In my mind this is justifiable homicide. Was Will Smith acting like a Saint? This was a hit-and-run that ended up in a tragedy.”

A surveillance video from a New Orleans restaurant that aired on ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, April 12, may show the beginning stages of the incident. The footage appears to show a Mercedes-Benz SUV bump a Hummer at 11:21 p.m. As the Hummer starts to pull over, the Mercedes veers into the opposite lane and drives away. The Hummer then pursues the Mercedes onto Sophie Wright Place, two blocks away from where the fatal incident occurred.

When officers arrived, Smith was found partially inside his vehicle suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the body, according to the NOPD. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Smith was 34.

Hayes identified himself as the shooter, and he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. An additional charge for Racquel’s injuries is pending. 

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