What started out as a fun day at a festival changed drastically in a matter of hours for former NFL player Will Smith.
The one-time defensive end for the New Orleans Saints was shot dead after a traffic crash Saturday night. Suspect Cardell Hayes, 28, is accused of killing him after they “exchanged words” in the street.
As police investigate the shooting, a time line is emerging from interviews, records and police statements about what happened that night. Here’s a look at what we know and what we don’t:
Will Smith posts a selfie on Instagram. The photo’s caption says he and his wife, Racquel, are “having a blast” at the French Quarter Fest in New Orleans.
The Smiths arrive at Sake Cafe on Magazine Street to join a group of friends at the restaurant. Dining with them are former New Orleans police Capt. Billy Ceravolo, former New Orleans Saint Pierre Thomas, a sports agent and the restaurant’s former owner, according to the restaurant’s general manager.
“They were telling jokes and enjoying themselves,” general manager Dave Matherne says. Between seven people, they shared three bottles of wine and about $400 in high-end sushi, he says. And they weren’t drunk or even tipsy when they left, according to Matherne. In fact, he says, “they seemed perfectly OK.”
Ceravolo was among a group of officers named in a 2006 lawsuit Hayes filed over his father’s death. So far, police say that case doesn’t have anything to do with Saturday’s events. But they’re still investigating.
What we don’t know: What will details from police toxicology tests reveal? How did Ceravolo and Smith know each other?
The group leaves the restaurant. Will and Racquel Smith are in a silver Mercedes SUV; another man and woman are in the car with them, according to police. Two friends are in a gray Chevrolet Impala.
What we don’t know: Who was in the vehicle with Will and Racquel Smith? Who was in the Impala? What role did they play — if any — in what happened Saturday night?
Surveillance footage shows a silver Mercedes SUV trailing an orange Hummer on Magazine Street. The Hummer stops abruptly, and the Mercedes pulls up quickly, too, possibly hitting the Hummer from behind. Both vehicles are at a standstill briefly until the Hummer starts to pull over; the Mercedes, though, goes around and drives off.
Hayes was driving the Hummer, according to his lawyer.
“My client was hit. The person that hit him sped off,” attorney John Fuller says. “My client followed behind that person in an effort to get their license plate. And my client called 911.”
Police say they’ve also obtained surveillance videos and are investigating.
What we don’t know: When did Hayes call 911? And what did he say?
At some point during this window, an orange Hummer H2 driven by Hayes rear ends the Mercedes near the intersection of Felicity Street and Sophie Wright Place (about 10 blocks away from the restaurant), according to police.
That crash causes Smith’s SUV to hit the Impala, according to police. Two of Smith’s friends are inside the Impala and are not injured in the incident.
Smith and Hayes “exchange words,” according to police.
What we don’t know: What did Smith and Hayes say to each other? How did the situation turn violent?
Police receive a call of “shots fired” in the area of Felicity Street and Sophie Wright Place.
On a video recorded at the scene and obtained by CNN, a woman screams, “I need an ambulance! My leg has been shot!” Police tell bystanders they want to speak with witnesses who saw what happened.
That video also includes a witness claiming that two people shouted about having guns during an altercation before the shooting.
Police recover one gun at the scene: a .45 caliber handgun.
“During the argument,” police say, “Hayes produced a .45 caliber handgun and opened fire, striking Smith and his wife.”
Police later said they found two more weapons: a loaded gun inside Smith’s vehicle and another loaded weapon inside Hayes’ Hummer. There’s no sign either weapon was fired.
What we don’t know: What role did the other weapons play? Who did they belong to?
A 911 dispatcher describes a call that just came in. “Complainant states that there’s a male down with about six gunshot wounds to the chest.”
That man is Smith, who dies at the scene.
What we don’t know: Who made that 911 call, and what was their involvement in the incident? Were there other 911 callers? And if so, what did they describe?
Police radio that the suspect is in custody. “I think we’ve got the shooters on the scene. We’ve got one gun recovered on the scene.”
Detectives transport Hayes to the homicide office for questioning before taking him to Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Central Lockup and booking him on a murder charge.
Later, police say that they don’t believe a man with Hayes that night had anything to do with the shooting.
What we don’t know: Who was the man with Hayes, and what is his version of events?
12:43 a.m. Sunday
New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer Michael DeMocker tweets a photograph that shows a distraught Thomas at the scene of the shooting.
“I witnessed a close friend, teammate and a man that I thought of as one of my big brothers in the NFL shot to death over a F***ING FENDER BENDER!!!! Why!? I just don’t get it,” Thomas wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday.
He didn’t go into details about who did what the night of the shooting.
“My heart is heavy,” he says, “and I wish I could turn back the hands of time.”
What we don’t know: What did Thomas tell police about the shooting, and the events that preceded it?