By Helen Freund
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The man accused of killing retired NFL player Will Smith and injuring the athlete's wife this month in a New Orleans shooting was indicted on Thursday on charges including second-degree murder and attempted murder.
The grand jury reached its decision after the start of a probable cause hearing in the case against Cardell Hayes, 28, prosecutors said.
Smith, one of the NFL’s top defensive ends before his 2014 retirement, was returning from a dinner with his wife on April 9 when police say Hayes' Hummer struck the rear of Smith’s Mercedes SUV and caused it to crash into another vehicle.
Police said the two men exited their cars and exchanged words before Hayes drew a weapon and fired multiple shots.
Smith, 34, was shot eight times – seven times in the back and once in the chest. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Smith’s wife, Racquel, was shot twice in the leg and survived.
The grand jury also indicted Hayes on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and aggravated criminal damage to a vehicle. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of second-degree murder.
Police have not confirmed that the shooting was the result of road rage or another motive. Hayes’ attorneys have said he was not the aggressor and is not guilty.
Hayes remained at the shooting scene after the incident. An EMS technician who responded testified during Thursday’s hearing that Hayes’ demeanor was “very calm.”
Will Smith played for the New Orleans Saints for a decade and was a prominent member of the team during their Super Bowl win in 2010. Following an injury in 2013, his contract was terminated and he retired in 2014.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)