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Former NFL Player Shot To Death In ‘Road Rage’ Incident

New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith sits on the bench during an NFL football game in 2012. Smith was shot and killed Saturday in New Orleans. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATTHEW HINTON
New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith sits on the bench during an NFL football game in 2012. Smith was shot and killed Saturday in New Orleans. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATTHEW HINTON

Will Smith, a former defensive end for the New Orleans Saints, was shot and killed late Saturday night in that city, after his car was rear-ended. Police are calling the shooting a road-rage incident.

It was the 31st murder in New Orleans this year, according to a database maintained by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Despite three consecutive years of decline, in 2014 New Orleans had a murder rate almost four times as high as average cities of similar size. So far this year, nearly 3,455 people have been killed by guns in America.

In 2012, Smith himself Tweeted about New Orleans’ violence.

New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison told NPR last year that his city’s murders are not due to gangs, but rather “domestic violence related homicides, arguments that have turned fatal, and robberies that have turned fatal.”

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Indeed, that’s what appears to have happened Saturday night. According to a police statement, Smith’s Mercedes was hit from behind by a Hummer, causing him to crash into the car ahead of him, which was being driven by a friend.

“At some point, the 30-year-old male driver of the Hummer and Smith exchanged words. The 30-year-old male driver produced a handgun and shot Smith multiple times, the female victim was also shot to the leg,” police said.

The female victim was Smith’s wife. She was taken to a local hospital and is reportedly in stable condition. The pair have three children.

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On Sunday, police announced they have booked 28-year-old New Orleans resident Cardell Hayes on second-degree murder. In 2014, Hayes pleaded to illegally carrying a weapon and possession of drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to six months probation, The Advocate reported.

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Smith was part of the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl championship season, when he led the team with a career-high 13 sacks. He left football after the 2012 season. His wife is a New Orleans native.

Will Smith was trending on Twitter on Sunday, as football players and fans alike remembered the popular player. In addition to condolences, many spoke out about the shooting’s senselessness.

“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,” Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle said in a statement.

New Orleans has seen a third of its police force leave since 2010, NPR reported.

Also on Saturday, New Orleans residents voted against a property tax measure that would have added $5 million to the police force.