Cardell Hayes Wikipedia, Bio | Cardell Hayes and Will Smith Case

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Who is Cardell Hayes?

Cardell Hayes, known as “Bear”, is a former New Orleans prep football star who was once considered one of Louisiana’s rising gridiron stars. He is listed as a player for the Crescent City Kings local development team as recently as 2015. Bear Hayes is a graduate of the University of New Orleans. 

In 2014, Hayes appeared as an extra in the film 22 Jump Street. Smith was a former security guard for the New Orleans Saints. 

Cardell Hayes Wiki/Bio

NameCardell Hayes
ResidenceNew Orleans, Louisiana
ParentsAnthony Hayes
EthnicityBlack African
NationalityUnited States
EducationUniversity of New Orleans

Shooting of Will Smith

In April 2016, Cardell shot former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith to death in a road rage incident. The two men “exchanged words” before Hayes pulled out a gun and began firing, police said. Witnesses reported hearing six to eight shots. Hayes also shot Will’s wife Racquel Smith in the leg. Cardell was booked for second-degree murder. He was indicted on April 28, 2016. 

Road incident and death

On April 9, 2016, Smith was involved in a traffic collision in which a Hummer, driven by 28-year-old Cardell Hayes, was rear-ended by Smith’s Mercedes SUV in an ongoing confrontation that allegedly started with Smith’s vehicle rear-ending the Hummer. The final collision caused Haye’s vehicle to collide with the vehicle in front of him and was hard enough to break the rear window in the Mercedes. 

Moments earlier and less than two blocks away, in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, Smith’s vehicle had been hit by Hayes’ vehicle. Smith’s vehicle contained Smith, his wife Racquel, and two unnamed passengers. In the second collision, Smith and Hayes exchanged words, when Hayes fired a handgun, killing Smith and injuring his wife. Hayes was arrested at the scene.

During the investigation, a fully loaded 9-millimeter handgun was found in Smith’s car. Hayes and a passenger in his vehicle claimed self-defense. After an investigation, the New Orleans Police Department charged Hayes with second-degree murder. Results of a postmortem toxicology report concluded that Smith had a blood alcohol content of .235 on the night of the incident or nearly three times the legal limit in Louisiana. Smith was buried on April 16, 2016.

The trial began on December 5, 2016, in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. On December 11, an Orleans Parish jury found Cardell Hayes guilty of manslaughter in the shooting of Will Smith and attempted manslaughter of his wife, Racquel Smith. On April 20, 2017, Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the charge of manslaughter, and 15 years for the charge of attempted manslaughter, to be served concurrently. On April 19, the day before the sentence, a judge denied Hayes’ motion for a new trial, a ruling that was reversed on November 19, 2020. On January 11, 2021, the Supreme Court vacated Hayes’ conviction.


On December 11, 2016, Hayes was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Smith and attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith’s wife, Racquel Smith. The manslaughter charge carries up to 40 years, while the attempted manslaughter charge carries up to 20 years. The sentencing will be determined by a judge on February 17, 2017. 


On April 20, 2017, Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter.

Bond set at $225,000

State Judge Camille Buras noted that prosecutors plan to proceed with prosecution for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, not the original charges. She set bail at $175,000 on the manslaughter charge and $50,000 for attempted manslaughter.

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