The State Police will not take over the investigation of Will Smith’s fatal shooting, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said Saturday.
Edmonson made the announcement in a letter sent to John Fuller, the lead attorney for Cardell Hayes, the man accused of killing the former Saints lineman after a minor traffic collision April 9 in the Lower Garden District.
On Friday, Fuller asked the city to pull the New Orleans Police Department off the case, claiming misconduct in its investigation and asking for either the State Police or the FBI to take over the matter.
In his letter, Edmonson said he had reviewed Fuller’s request but that there was no legal basis for his agency to step in on a New Orleans investigation.
“The New Orleans Police Department exercises original jurisdiction,” he wrote. “We have every confidence that the Police Department has the investigative expertise and capacity to fulfill its obligation of conducting an objective and professional investigation.”
Fuller’s letter cited a “grave lack of faith in the honesty and competency” of the Police Department investigation.
Among other things, he has criticized the NOPD for initially saying only one gun — the one used to kill Smith — was confiscated at the shooting scene. Three days later, police revealed they had found a fully loaded 9 mm handgun in Smith’s SUV after obtaining a warrant to search the vehicle, which had been confiscated the night of the shooting.
Edmonson said he made his decision after speaking with NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison and offering his agency’s “full resources,” including forensic and DNA expertise, to support the investigation.
Members of Edmonson’s staff met with investigative staff from the NOPD and the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office on Saturday morning, Edmonson said.
“It was jointly agreed that NOPD should retain the lead role in this investigation at this time,” Edmonson wrote. “Such an arrangement protects the integrity of the inquiry and serves the best interests of all involved parties.”
In response to Fuller’s letter, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble issued a statement Friday that said: “Every homicide in New Orleans deserves a fair, thorough and complete investigation, and that is what we are doing in this case. We will continue to follow the facts wherever they take us.”
Smith was buried Saturday after a private funeral service at the Saenger Theater. Public visitation was held Friday at the Saints practice facility in Metairie.