A Hi-Volt Coffee Shop surveillance camera captured footage that apparently shows Will Smith's Mercedes SUV being rear-ended by a Hummer H2 that police say was driven by Cardell Hayes, the man accused of firing a handgun moments later to murder the former Saints player the night of April 9.
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A couple of things stand out about the audio-less video, which was obtained by our content partners at WWL-TV on Monday and then provided to The New Orleans Advocate:
-- The Hummer's brake lights appear to illuminate a number of times before the collision down the road from the coffee shop on Sophie Wright Place. It was not immediately clear what that could mean for Hayes, who was accused by an attorney representing Smith's family of intentionally ramming into the back of the Mercedes, setting off a confrontation that left the former Super Bowl champion dead after eight bullet wounds, seven of which were to his back.
One of Hayes' defense attorneys, John Fuller, has denied that his client hit Smith on purpose. Fuller says Hayes was trying to get the license plate number of a car that had rear-ended his Hummer nearby on Magazine Street a little while before the shooting and then drove off. Footage from a couple of businesses on Magazine show Smith's Mercedes may have lightly struck Hayes' Hummer as the two vehicles were approaching traffic stopped at a red light before the Mercedes drove off and the Hummer followed.
-- A couple of minutes after the crash, it appears two people seek cover behind a car parked on the passenger side of Sophie Wright Place (editor's note: The video above is edited down from its original version; people are seen seeking cover at the 15-second mark, rather than several minutes into the video like in its original, unedited version.).
-- At least one of the people seeking cover seems to have a cell phone pointed toward where the Hummer hit the back of the Mercedes, as if recording. Fuller has claimed that police were given a cell phone video showing the events preceding Smith's shooting. It is not clear if the unidentified person shown in the Hi-Volt surveillance footage is the one who captured the video referred to by Fuller.
-- Smith's shooting is not visible in the footage captured by the Hi-Volt surveillance camera. In latter parts of the footage, cars try to go up Sophie Wright Place but ultimately go in reverse toward where they came from with the help of a passer-by.
Also, what appears to be an unmarked police car arrives at the scene about five minutes after the pair seeking cover behind a car come into view. Assuming the pair of people from earlier sought cover immediately after the shooting occurred, the apparent unmarked police car would have been arriving around the time that officers said they began showing up to the scene.
The shooting incident that took Smith's life also left his wife, Racquel, with a bullet wound to each leg.
Hayes has been booked with second-degree murder and for now is scheduled to appear at a preliminary court hearing on April 28.
-- Compiled by staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas