The initial email showed up in my inbox just after midnight Sunday morning.
It was 12:06 a.m., to be exact.
“We are working a double shooting, around 11:29 p.m., near the intersection of Sophie Wright and Felicity streets,” read the email, sent by New Orleans Police Department spokesman Juan Barnes. ”Male victim was fatally shot and a female victim with a (non-fatal) gun shot wound to the leg. No further information is available at this time.”
I didn’t really need any more information, anyway.
When you see so much email like that, you eventually become numb to them.
Not much later, though, the story began drawing national attention.
The victim was Will Smith, the former New Orleans Saints standout defensive end. All of a sudden, this became more than just another statistic.
Now there was a face, a likable local hero whom the entire city could associate with, to go with the crime.
Smith’s untimely death — he was only 34 — is an eye-opener and a black eye for the city at the same time.
It was another reminder of just how bad the violence is here in New Orleans — as if the folks here really need another high-profile reminder.
Dinerral Shavers in 2006 should have been enough. Or Helen Hill a year later. Or perhaps 5-year-old Briana Allen in 2013.
Now the death of Smith, a key part of the franchise’s only Super Bowl title, is the latest wake-up call for a city that can’t seem to get enough of them.
“The senseless acts of violence have to stop,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. “Traffic accidents should not lead to someone losing their life.”
The NOPD is still investigating, and there are too many unanswered questions.
Was it just road rage? Was there some other motive?
None of that matters. It shouldn’t have ended this way.
The blame has been placed on everything from gun control laws to Landrieu. But I doubt either could’ve prevented this — or the non-fatal shooting that happened in the 1300 block of Canal Street just three hours later Sunday morning.
At some point, the blame must be placed where it belongs: people simply not valuing human life.
I’ve never met Cardell Hayes, the 28-year-old who was booked with second-degree murder.
What we know about him is that he played football at Warren Easton High School a decade ago and was rated among the best players in the state in the Class of 2005. Like Smith, Hayes was a defensive lineman.
“Loves the game and plays with a lot of toughness and enthusiasm” were the words used to describe Hayes on a recruiting website.
Those same words could have been used to describe Smith, who grew up in New York.
Smith made it to the NFL. Hayes didn’t.
But late Saturday night, their paths — either purposely or by chance — crossed near the corner of Sophie Wright Place and Felicity Street.
As a result of that meeting, Smith’s children will have to grow up without their father.
Smith’s death came four years after he went to Twitter and sent out a plea after a slew of murders hit the city.
“Wow, 20 murders in 26 days? New Orleans … please stop the violence,” Smith tweeted Jan. 26, 2012.
Smith is the 31st homicide victim in New Orleans this year. If you’re looking for some silver lining, that number is down from the 46 homicides committed by this time last year, according to NOPD spokesperson Tyler Gamble.
But there’s another statistic, one that has haunted the black community for way too long.
A young black male is headed to his grave. And another one may be headed to jail.
As Smith would surely tell you if he could, “New Orleans … please stop the violence.”