This year, one of our most popular ex-Saints football players was shot and killed on the busy streets of the busy Lower Garden District in the hours after one of our most attended public festivals. The story was initially reported as being that the shooter, Hayes, had followed him and shot him in an unprovoked attack. Hayes was reportedly carrying a gun legally and has said that he had it to his side pointed down until provoked by the victim. He says Smith went back to his car, got a gun and threatened him, although that gun has not surfaced. Smith’s wife was shot in both legs which certainly hurts Hayes’ story of only defending himself against a gun.
Hayes’ criminal record was immediately displayed as evidence of his lawlessness, even though it really told us nothing. The odd fact that the couple shot had just had dinner with the police officer who had shot Hayes’ father years earlier was used as evidence as vendetta by the media but for locals, it was just another version of the one or two degrees of separation and randomness that was super normal pre-K and is still expected.
Really, the tragedy is the argument that led to this was likely over nothing and only shows the lack of maturity on both sides. The ending paragraph of the GQ story tells it all in a nutshell: Hayes had no idea who it was he shot and, having been a promising player once himself, was horrified to find out the man he shot had been one of his favorite football players.
Generations of men grow up here and other places with bright dreams that are slowly squashed by reality and then one day, another man brushes too close to his girl or taps his prized car without apology. That speeds up the damaged heart and the rage stored there is quickly pumped throughout the body, leading to the moment when a gun is pointed and the trigger pulled. Maybe the hope is mostly that the gun itself will serve as enough of a warning to stop any other action (a MAN standing his ground), but the truth is too often that is not the end of it, but the tragic beginning.
The misguided and escalating anger over slight damage to personal property along with the fear among high-strung men (esp. an ex football player once arrested for a domestic violence charge against his wife after an altercation in public) of being “played” in public seem to be the real story here. Neither should be the reason for a death or trial and likely punishment of another. But here it is again.