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Story highlights

"To be accused of murdering one of your idols is earth shattering," lawyer says

Lawyer: Will Smith didn't have a gun in his hand when he was killed

The ex-NFL player was shot eight times

New Orleans CNN —  

The suspect in the shooting death of ex-NFL player Will Smith did not know who the victim was until the next day, according to a defense attorney.

Cardell Hayes has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of the former defensive end for the New Orleans Saints.

Smith was killed Saturday night after a night out with his wife and friends in New Orleans. He was shot eight times, including seven in the back, the coroner said.

Hayes’ lawyer said his client did not know at the scene that Smith was the victim.

When he found out Sunday morning, he collapsed in a chair, attorney John Fuller said. Hayes was a fan of Smith, he said, and wanted to be like him.

“To be accused of murdering one of your idols is earth shattering,” Fuller said.

Hayes shot Smith after a traffic collision and an exchange of words between the two, according to police.

Smith’s attorney: He never brandished a gun

Detectives found a fully loaded 9mm handgun inside Smith’s Mercedes SUV on Tuesday morning. Investigators also found a fully loaded revolver inside the Hummer H2 driven by Hayes. That brought the total number of weapons in the investigation to three. Police have said a .45-caliber handgun they found at the scene Saturday night was the weapon Hayes used to shoot Smith and his wife.

Detectives found a loaded 9 mm pistol inside Smith’s Mercedes SUV on Tuesday morning. Investigators also found a loaded revolver inside the Hummer H2 driven by Hayes.

Police have said a .45-caliber pistol they found at the scene Saturday night was used by Hayes to shoot Smith and his wife. That brought the total number of weapons in the investigation to three.

Peter Thomson, an attorney for Smith’s family, called a news conference Wednesday afternoon to insist that Smith was not armed when he was killed.

• “At no time during this event, to my knowledge at all, did Will Smith ever brandish or carry on his person a firearm,” Thomson said.

• Smith was licensed to carry a concealed weapon that may have been inside the vehicle, Thomson said, but he wasn’t reaching for it when he was shot.

• Smith’s wife, Racquel, was shot once in each leg and is recovering in a hospital, Thomson said.

Will Smith’s final hours: Time line of deadly New Orleans shooting

Hayes’ attorney: He’s been ‘prejudged’

Speaking to reporters, attorney John Fuller repeatedly said Hayes is “legally not guilty.”

• At least one witness saw a gun in Will Smith’s possession, Fuller alleged.

Cardell Hayes is charged with second-degree murder.
Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office
Cardell Hayes is charged with second-degree murder.

He questioned why police initially recovered one weapon from the scene, then found two additional weapons inside vehicles involved days later.

Will Smith shooting suspect didn’t start fight, attorney says

“I just find it odd that a homicide where a man lost his life, a man who left three children behind, that a gun supposedly isn’t recovered until days after the incident,” he said.

Police offered an explanation for why the two additional weapons were not found until Tuesday.

“It takes time to process evidence and these types of inventories are done in a very methodical way,” spokesman Tyler Gamble said in an email. “Homicide detectives, along with trained crime lab technicians and members of the traffic fatality unit, processed vehicles yesterday and that’s when the additional weapons were found and documented.”

• An unidentified witness is alleging she saw something “untoward” happen at the crime scene, according to Fuller. Fuller said the witness arrived “seconds or minutes after the shooting.” But he refused to go into details about what she saw, saying she fears for her life.

Lawyer: Witness fears for her life

An unidentified witness says she saw something “untoward” happen at the crime scene, according to Fuller. He said the witness arrived “seconds or minutes after the shooting.” But he refused to go into details about what she saw, saying she fears for her life.

Opinion: The big questions of the Will Smith case

• There may be a video of what happened just before the shooting, according to Fuller. “We have reason to believe that a bystander recorded the events immediately prior to gunshots being fired, and that that footage was turned over to New Orleans police on the night that Mr. Smith died,” Fuller said. “We want that video, because I know what it’s going to show. And it’s going to show that my client is legally not guilty.”

“We have reason to believe that a bystander recorded the events immediately prior to gunshots being fired, and that that footage was turned over to New Orleans police on the night that Mr. Smith died,” Fuller said. “We want that video, because I know what it’s going to show. And it’s going to show that my client is legally not guilty.”

• Fuller said the case against his client “is the ultimate example of a person being prejudged.”

Gamble said he couldn’t confirm whether there was a video showing the moments before the shooting, but investigators have canvassed the area for surveillance video.

“We can’t get into specifics,” the police spokesman said. “We are still building an investigation.”

New details from coroner, police

Authorities are being tight-lipped about many details in the investigation, but there were several new developments:

• Smith was shot eight times, according to findings released by the Orleans Parish coroner.

• A toxicology analysis is being done, but results won’t be available for six to eight weeks, the report says.

CNN’s Martin Savidge reported from New Orleans, and CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet and Faith Karimi reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s John Murgatroyd contributed to this report.