NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The man who killed New Orleans Saints star Will Smith during a traffic dispute sounded “evil” and showed no remorse as he shouted taunts at the slain man’s body, a witness to the shooting testified Wednesday.
Rebecca Dooley and her husband were riding along with Smith and his wife when a Hummer driven by Cardell Hayes slammed into the back of Smith’s SUV that Saturday night in April. The men got out, and when their argument escalated, the women did, too.
Defense attorneys have said Hayes, 29, was fearful when he exited his Hummer, armed with a handgun, and he and a passenger faced Smith and Dooley’s husband, Richard Hernandez.
Prosecutors charged Hayes with second-degree murder and say there was no justification for his shooting Smith once in the side and seven times in the back. Hayes also faces attempted murder for shooting Racquel Smith, the retired NFL player’s wife, in the legs.
Moments before, Smith had driven away after apparently bumping into the Hummer. Hayes then followed the SUV, and his Hummer slammed into the back of Smith’s car.
“They just both seemed angry: Will saying ‘You hit my car,’ ‘Mr. Hayes saying, ‘You hit me first, then back and forth, back and forth,” Dooley testified.
Dooley said her husband and Hayes’ passenger also had words, and that the passenger took a swing at her husband, but she said no physical contact was made among any of those arguing, she said.
Echoing Tuesday’s testimony from Racquel Smith, Dooley said she thought tempers had calmed after the initial shouting. Then, she said: “I see Mr. Hayes walking toward Will with a gun pointed at him. I hear shots fired. I see Will’s body jolt.”
Then came more shots, and she saw Smith fall past the open door of his car, onto his driver’s seat.
“Look at you now. You were showing off,” Dooley quoted Hayes as saying over Smith’s slumped body.
“It just sounded like there was no remorse — evil kind of sounding,” Dooley testified.
Later, she said, “I heard Mr. Hayes say, ‘Where’s that white boy at?’”
“At that point I though he was looking for my husband,” she said, but no other shots were fired.
Contradicting a developing defense narrative, Dooley said she never heard Smith threaten to fetch a gun from the SUV.
On cross examination, defense attorney Jay Daniels tried to raise doubts about the reliability of Dooley’s testimony. On the stand, she said she saw Hayes’ Hummer approaching the SUV from behind seconds before impact. Daniels questioned whether there had been any mention of that in Dooley’s earlier statement to a detective. Daniels also implied that Dooley left out another detail — that Hayes’ passenger had swung at her husband — in her initial interview with police.
A transcript of that initial interview has not yet been introduced.
Dooley’s testimony was similar but differed somewhat from Racquel Smith’s Tuesday testimony.
Racquel Smith testified that she heard Hayes yelling profanely after the shooting, apparently at her husband’s lifeless body, making a reference to Hernandez.
“You want to show up for the effing white boy,” she recalled Hayes shouting.
The defense disputed that claim in opening statements, and insisted that Hayes felt threatened.
Racquel Smith acknowledged that her husband had had alcoholic beverages throughout the day of the shooting, beginning with one at the festival, more at a bar they visited later, wine with dinner and still more drinks at a sushi restaurant.
Lawyers have said a toxicology report showed Smith was legally drunk. But Racquel Smith insisted her husband did nothing to provoke the gunfire.
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