Last updated: 9:50 p.m., April 10, 2016
Early Sunday morning, some began questioning whether the shooting of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was more complicated than a case of road rage.
Some suggested the roots dated back to December 2005, when accused shooter Cardell Hayes’ mentally ill father, Anthony Hayes, 38, was pepper-sprayed and then killed by nine shots that came from a group of NOPD officers — including Billy Ceravolo, one of Smith’s dining companions Saturday night.
In that incident, Hayes’ father had gotten into an argument with an employee at a St. Charles Avenue pharmacy while holding a pocket knife. City attorneys claimed later that the elder Hayes had lunged at Ceravolo with a pocketknife before the shooting.
Cardell Hayes sued for damages, alleging that officers should have used non-lethal force -- such as a stun gun -- to subdue his father, but none of the cops had such a tool.
Cardell Hayes and his sister, Tyiece Baptiste-Howard, sued the city in separate lawsuits, which the city settled in 2011 for an undisclosed amount of money that could be described as “large,” said attorney Ike Spears, who represented Cardell Hayes in that matter.
Meanwhile, Ceravolo on Sunday said he was eating dinner with Smith and former Saints running back Pierre Thomas at a restaurant in the Lower Garden District shortly before authorities said Smith was rear-ended by Hayes on a nearby street. Ceravolo, who called Smith and Thomas personal friends, said he was not at the scene of the shooting when it occurred and was not aware that Hayes had named him in his federal lawsuit.
But NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said Sunday that while police were still investigating, they had not uncovered any connection between the 2005 shooting and Smith’s death. He said they had no evidence that Smith’s killing was “anything more than an accident that turned into a dispute which turned violent.”
Ceravolo also dismissed the connection, saying he didn’t even know he had been named in Hayes’ lawsuit against the city.
Attorney John Fuller, too, dismissed the notion that the 2005 shooting had anything to do with Saturday’s incident. Asked if there was any connection, he said there was “absolutely none.”