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Family attorney: Smith was protecting wife when shot

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Before former Saints star Will Smith was shot and killed Saturday night, Smith's wife, Racquel, was shot once in each leg, according to the family's attorney, Peter Thomson.

Per Thomson, who addressed reporters Wednesday at University Medical Hospital in New Orleans, Racquel was trying to defuse an altercation between Will Smith and accused killer Cardell Hayes. Hayes allegedly rear-ended Smith's sport-utility vehicle in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans just before the shooting. Hayes was arrested and booked on second-degree murder charges Sunday.

According to Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse, a preliminary autopsy on Smith's body revealed he was shot in the back six times. He suffered a total of eight gunshot wounds, including seven which were penetrating in nature. Bullets perforated Smith's vital organs, including the lungs and heart. The bullets entered his left lower back (3), left mid-back (2), left upper back (1) and left lateral chest wall (1), Rouse reported.

Results from a toxicological analysis of Smith's body will be made available in six to eight weeks. Ballistic evidence found on Smith's body was forwarded to New Orleans police for their ongoing murder investigation, Rouse added.

Thomson said Racquel sustained a shattered right femur. In a statement made on behalf of Racquel, she called Will Smith a "wonderful husband, wonderful father, adored by her and adored by her children," and added that he was trying to protect her.

Racquel Smith is expected to recover but remains in the hospital.

Thomson used his news conference to shoot down rumors of a "justifiable homicide." Tanzanike Ruffin, the attorney for Cardell Hayes' passenger, Kevin Oneale, has said that Will Smith "had a gun and was going to shoot it." Thomson said that "at no time during this event did Will Smith ever brandish or carry on his person a firearm."

John Fuller, Hayes' attorney, disputed that claim Wednesday, saying a bystander who witnessed the shooting saw Smith with a gun at the time of the incident. Fuller also said cell phone video footage of the incident just before the shooting has been turned over to New Orleans police.

Fuller also said Hayes didn't realize until Sunday morning that Smith was the individual who was killed. He told NFL Media's James Palmer that Hayes collapsed in his chair when he learned of the victim's identity.

"You know, he's already kind of upset and hurt that's he's in jail for murder and then to learn that it's a beloved Saint, someone that he looked up to, someone that he aspired to be..." Fuller said. "Remember, he played semi-pro football. It just shook him up even more than he already was."

Smith had a licensed concealed-carry permit, according to his attorney.

"He had a state concealed weapons license from state police for his protection and the protection of his wife and his family," Thomson said. "That firearm I understand was in the vehicle, never taken out by Will Smith, never brandished and never fired."

Thomson also drew his own timeline of Saturday's events. He stated that Racquel and Will Smith were at the Sake Cafe with some friends. After, they got into their Mercedes SUV with another couple. On Magazine Street, an orange Hummer with tinted windows stopped in front of them, causing Smith to slam on the brakes to try and avoid a collision, per Thomson. After seeing no damage, they moved around the Hummer and drove on. The Hummer then approached with "great speed" behind Smith's car a few minutes later and, according to Thomson, rammed Smith's car so hard that the SUV struck the vehicle in front of them. The windshield of the SUV shattered, prompting Will Smith to exit the vehicle.

"This is no hit and run. So said they slammed on their brakes on Magazine Street, did not believe they even hit the Hummer. There's no damage to that car and they went on about their business," Thomson said. "So there was no hit and run in the case and there's no fender bender in this case. When that occurred there was no damage. And when the Hummer came back and rammed Will Smith's car that was far more than a fender bender. That was an intentional ram, shattering window causing damage into both cars and the car in front of Will Smith's car."

Hayes told police he was the shooter when they arrived at the scene and a passenger in Hayes' vehicle cooperated with detectives at the scene, police said. In addition, police announced Tuesday that they did not find any evidence that a loaded gun in Smith's car was fired during the incident.

Will Smith, 34, won a Super Bowl and was named to a Pro Bowl as a member of the Saints. Before his death, he was informed that he would be named to the team's Ring of Honor.

Hayes' preliminary hearing is set for April 28, the Orleans Parish Clerk Office confirmed to NFL Media. Police said an additional charge related to Racquel Smith's injuries is pending further investigation. Hayes remains in jail on a $1 million bond.

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