Had Will Smith pulled over to the side of the street after lightly bumping the Hummer H2 in front of him on April 9, 2016, he would probably still be alive. But instead, as security camera footage from a New Orleans business shows, when Cardell Hayes and his passenger in the Hummer moved to the side of the road, Smith and his wife Racquel drove off, leading a few minutes later to the altercation that would claim the life of the former New Orleans Saints defensive end.
Why would Smith do such a thing? In “The Saint v. the ‘Thug’,” the piece that this week kicks off Sports Illustrated’s new ongoing series SI True Crime, an interesting explanation is offered to reporter Richard O’Brien by someone who knows the Lower Garden district:
As Brett Michael Dykes, the editor in chief of Uproxx.com and a resident of the neighborhood, says, “Everyone here was aware of a rampant rise in bump-and-run carjackings these days.”
That connection makes sense if the Hummer was behind Smith and had hit him at the late midnight hour. Not so much given the fact that it was Smith’s Mercedes SUV that tapped the rear of Hayes’ vehicle.
O’Brien does a good job of detailing the backgrounds of Hayes and his passenger, lifelong friend Kevin O’Neal, who insists the actions of Hayes in response to Smith that night saved his life. A trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 1, with Hayes currently in jail. He has entered a plea of not-guilty. As part of the SI True Crime kickoff, on newsstands today, there is also an episode of the podcast The Gray Area featuring O’Brien.
Previously on FishbowlNY:
Will Smith Tragedy Leaves Local Newspaper Columnist Numb