911 call recorded suspect after shooting ex-Saint Will Smith

FILE - This April 10, 2016, file photo provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office shows Cardell Hayes. Hayes, the suspect in the death of Will Smith, said he shot in self-defense because he feared the retired New Orleans Saints star, although unarme
AP Photo

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The suspect in the death of Will Smith said he shot in self-defense because he feared the retired New Orleans Saints star, although unarmed, was going for a gun as they argued over a car crash.

''It was self-defense,'' Cardell Hayes can be heard telling detectives in a recording of an interview made hours after the shooting.

A 911 recording made moments after the fatal shots documented other key details. Played in court on Friday, it captured Hayes telling an off-duty police officer that he had to shoot, because Smith was about to get a gun.

''What was I supposed to do?'' Hayes asked officer Christopher McGaw.

The rookie officer, who was unarmed and out of uniform at a bar that night, said he had gone out to the street to intervene after hearing men arguing following a car crash.

McGaw testified that he heard the former NFL linebacker say something like ''Oh, you have a gun? I have one too, I can play that way!''

Then shots rang out - several quick shots, a slight pause, then several more, McGaw said.

McGaw testified that he didn't see the gunshots because he ducked for cover when he spotted a weapon as the argument escalated. But McGaw said he called 911 moments later, and kept the line open as he approached Hayes to ask what happened.

McGaw testified that Hayes told him he carried his .45-caliber handgun as he left his Hummer, and that Smith was unarmed when he got out of the SUV Hayes had just rear-ended.

The officer said he didn't realize at first that anyone was hurt, but then he saw the lifeless body. Smith appeared to have been shot as he reached into his SUV, his right hand extended toward the glove box, he said.

McGaw testified that he checked his pulse to confirm his death, and noticed gunshot wounds in his back and upper left shoulder.

''He was actually already beginning to get cold,'' the rookie said.

Police have said that Smith's loaded 9 mm handgun was found inside the car, and had not been fired.

Hayes also is charged with attempted second-degree murder in the wounding of Smith's wife, who was hit in both legs.

Hayes' defense hoped to persuade the judge on Friday to reduce his $1.75 million bond so that he might leave jail pending trial. Attorney John Fuller argued that Hayes won't flee and made a strong case for self-defense.

The judge denied the motion after prosecutor Jason Napoli said evidence shows Hayes provoked the confrontation by intentionally ramming Smith's SUV, and then threatening the unarmed man with a loaded handgun.

''Take the defendant's own word for it,'' Napoli said. ''He is the only one that made the decision to take someone's life that evening.''

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