Authorities in New Orleans have confirmed that former Saints defensive end Will Smith was killed in a shooting in the city's Garden District late Saturday.
At a press conference on Sunday, New Orleans police said that Smith was driving an SUV when he was struck from behind by an Hummer H2. Smith and the driver of the H2 reportedly exchanged words before the H2 driver allegedly pulled a gun and shot Smith multiple times and his wife once in the leg. Smith's wife was treated for not life-threatening injuries.
The suspect, Cardell Hayes, has been arrested and charged with second degree murder, but police said on Sunday that an investigation regarding a motive is still ongoing and it is still unclear if Hayes and Smith previously knew each other. Police also said there was a passenger in the Hummer with Hayes, but he wasn't involved in the shooting and will not face charges.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was one of many members of the NFL community to mourn Smith on Sunday:
Heavy Hearts w the senseless passing of our Team Capt. Will Smith. Pray for his wife's recovery and their children. pic.twitter.com/VomR0Sut6M— Sean Payton (@SeanPayton) April 10, 2016
.@nflcommish statement on passing of Will Smith pic.twitter.com/u12lcPpZJp— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) April 10, 2016
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Will and his wife Racquel, but more importantly with their children, William, Wynter and Lisa who are suffering and just starting to realize and deal with an unimaginable loss," Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle said in a statement. "We are devastated and saddened by Will's tragic and preventable death due to a senseless act that will leave a lasting scar on our community forever. Will was more than an exceptional football player he was a father, a husband, a son, a brother and teammate to so many and an inspiration to countless more. He will be greatly missed by all those he touched and impacted both on and off the football field and his legacy will continue to shine. The Saints family is hurting and devastated as it has lost a member too young and too soon."
The Smith family also released a brief statement on Sunday morning:
"On behalf of the Smith family, we are thankful for the outpouring of support and prayers. We ask that you continue to respect the family's privacy as they grieve the loss of a devoted husband, father and friend."
Smith, 34 years old, was a Saints first-round pick in 2004 after playing college ball at Ohio State. The defensive end was a Pro Bowl starter in 2006 and starred on the Saints' Super Bowl team in 2009-10. He last played in the NFL in 2012, having suffered a torn ACL in the 2013 preseason and failing to make the regular season roster for the Patriots in 2014.
Smith had three children.