Cardell Hayes, the man accused of fatally shooting former New Orleans Saint Will Smith, testified in court Saturday (Dec. 10) that Smith threatened to retrieve his gun and use it after discovering Hayes was armed the night of the incident.
Speaking from the stand under questioning from his attorney John Fuller, Hayes said Smith told him, “N—–, you got your gun. Well I’m going to get mine, and I’m going to show you what to do with it.”
When Fuller asked Hayes what he thought would happen next, Hayes replied: “I think he’s going to get a gun, show me what to do with it. What else should I think? I think he’s about to try to kill me.”
Hayes’ testimony marked the first time he has spoken publicly about the April 9 shooting that killed Smith and injured his wife, Racquel. New Orleans police arrested Hayes the same night on second-degree murder charges.
In recalling the moments before he fired his weapon at Smith, Hayes testified that he had not intentionally crashed his Hummer into the back of Smith’s SUV.
When members of Smith’s party suggested that Hayes hit them on purpose, Hayes said he told them: “I accidentally hit your truck, but ya’ll hit me and ran.” Moments earlier, Smith had driven off after apparently bumping the back of Hayes’ Hummer in the Lower Garden District.
Hayes also testified that he was not armed when he first stepped out of his vehicle after the accident. He said he retrieved his gun only after seeing a “Spanish man” with tattoos and no shirt – possibly Richard Hernandez, a the passenger in Smith’s vehicle – step out of the Mercedes that Smith was driving and appear to wrap something “shiny” in his shirt.
After that, Hayes testified, he went to the door of his Hummer, got his gun out of it, and closed the Hummer door. He then kept the gun at his side, he said.
Hayes said he thought the shirtless man was the first person to mention a gun.
“He tells Mr. Smith, ‘He has his gun on him, He’s scared. He’s not going to do nothing with it,'” Hayes said.
At that moment, Hayes said he saw Smith walk to his Mercedes. There he briefly tussled with his wife, who had told him earlier not the get the gun, Hayes said.
Hayes said he then saw Smith “spin” with a black gun in his hand, which was followed by a “pop” sound. “I see a weapon and I fire my weapon,” Hayes said, adding that he “didn’t expect my gun to go off as many times as it (did).”
He said he then dropped his gun to his side. When police approached his passenger, Kevin O’Neal, Hayes said he told them: “I’m the shooter, I’m the shooter” before dropping to his knees.
Afterward, Hayes said he saw a woman that he later learned was Racquel Smith shouting, “You shot my husband.” Racquel Smith had sustained two gunshot wounds, but Hayes denied that he shot her. Investigators have said that the bullets that wounded Racquel Smith came from Hayes’ gun.