NOPD reserve officer and longtime friend of Will Smith removed from service as investigation continues _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Former NOPD Capt Billy Ceravolo, right, speaks with Smith family lawyer, Peter Thomson, during a visitation for player Will Smith, #91, at the Saints Indoor Training Facility in Metairie, La. Friday, April 15, 2016.

A retired New Orleans Police Department captain has been removed from Reserve Division service as detectives continue their investigation of the killing of former Saints player Will Smith.

Tyler Gamble, a Police Department spokesman, confirmed Monday that Billy Ceravolo would be taken off reserve duties “pending the ongoing investigation.” The news was first reported by WWL-TV.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we’re looking into his involvement prior to, during and after the incident,” Gamble said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest that he not be serving as a reserve officer while this investigation is ongoing.”

Ceravolo, a longtime friend of Smith’s, had dinner with him and others at the Sake Cafe on Magazine Street shortly before the former lineman was shot at Sophie Wright Place and Felicity Street about 11:30 p.m. April 9.

Ceravolo also was present at the scene after the shooting, although he has told reporters he was not there when Smith was killed.

Cardell Hayes, a 28-year-old tow truck company owner, is accused of killing Smith. Hayes’ attorney, John Fuller, has filed motions to subpoena both Ceravolo and former Saints player Pierre Thomas to testify about the case.

Thomas has said that he “witnessed” the shooting, but it remains unclear if he was present when the shots were fired.

Fuller has alleged that a witness spotted “untoward activity” at the crime scene, possibly by a former NOPD officer, but he has not named the officer or described the conduct.

Fuller wrote in a letter Friday to State Police that he had a “grave lack of faith in the honesty and competency” of the NOPD investigation. But State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson rejected his request for the State Police to take over the investigation.

In a striking coincidence, Ceravolo was one of the officers present in December 2005 when other officers shot and killed Hayes’ father, Anthony. But Fuller has said he believes there is no connection between that killing and Smith’s death.

Ceravolo joined the Police Department in 1989 and retired in 2014. He was rehired in March as a reserve officer.

Meanwhile, another person who saw the aftermath of the shooting that took Smith’s life described the scene in an interview Saturday.

That witness, who asked not to be named, said he rushed to the scene of Smith’s killing moments after hearing a crash and gunshots. Hayes had crashed his Hummer into the rear of Smith’s Mercedes SUV, setting off a confrontation that ended with Smith’s fatal shooting. The witness said he arrived after Hayes had placed a gun — still smoking — on the hood of the Hummer.

The witness said he was struck by how calmly Hayes was behaving. “It was like he had nothing to fear,” he said. “He was not acting like a raving lunatic.”

He said Smith — who was shot eight times, according to the coroner — was slumped halfway inside his SUV, with his feet on the ground and his left arm draped over the steering wheel, his right arm stretched out inside the vehicle.

The witness confirmed those details with a photo that he snapped on his phone, as well as shots of Hayes and his passenger, Kevin O’Neal, being handcuffed.

He also was there when Thomas, the former Saints running back, appeared. “He was just distraught — nothing else stood out about him,” the witness said.

Other bystanders have described a “shirtless man” acting erratically at the scene of the shooting and perhaps even attempting to charge Hayes, but the witness who spoke with The Advocate on Saturday said he did not see anyone matching that description but did hear people at the scene describing him and talking about him.

Another bystander, however, who spoke with The Advocate on Monday, also on condition of anonymity, said she did notice a shirtless man at the scene after the gunshots.

“He was acting upset — crazy — in the middle of the street,” she said. “That’s all.”