Joe McKnight Case: Shooter Arrested, Sheriff Lashes Out at Critics, Black Community

At a press conference regarding the arrest the white man who killed McKnight, Sheriff Newell Normand allayed fears of a white shooter, saying, “predominantly, Black males commit the murders.”

By Sheryl Estrada

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand speaks at a press conference, Tuesday, December 6.

In a fiery press conference Tuesday morning, Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand announced that54-year-old Ronald Gasser, accused ofshooting and killing ex-NFL running back Joe McKnight, 28, during a road rage incident on Thursday, wasarrested late Mondayand faces manslaughter charges. Gasser’s bond was listed at $500,000.

“For those who have criticized the men and women of this organization and the strategy decisions that we made relative to that: Tough. I don’t care,” Normand said. “Because what I know is I can put my head on the pillow every night knowing we did the right things for the right reasons.”

He was responding to criticism on social media, and criticism by local leaders, regarding the fact that Gasser was not arrested at the scene of the crime in Terrytown, La., and that the investigation was lagging. There were protests at a vigil for McKnight over the weekend.

The sheriff also said he and other local authorities received angry messages via social media, which used various racial and homophobic slurs. He then read messages, containing the N-word and a slur used against gay people, out loud.

Joe N. McNight Jr.

Neither man used a racial slur, Normand said, citing witness accounts. “This wasn’t about race.”

In regard to criticism of sheriff’s office by community members, a reporter asked Normand, “Do you understand where the fear and anger comes from”

He responded:

“I was asked the question the other day after my 1 p.m. conference, by a reporter, ‘What can you say to me to make me feel safer that this is not going to happen to me [by] a white shooter'”

He said Black-on-Black crime is more likely in Jefferson Parish. Black perpetrators commit 78 percent of murders, and 78 percent of the victims are Black, Normand said.

“So if we’re just going to look statistically, your fear is misdirected,” he added.

Normand then said, “predominantly, Black males commit the murders.”

Ronald Gasser booking photo

He explained that Gasser was initially released, even though he had admitted to the crime,because the sheriff’s office sought more witnesses as there were false witness accounts. Normand saidinvestigators conducted more than 160 interviews and spoke to Gasser for more than 12 hours, without an attorney. He consented to a search of his home.

“On Thursday evening, only faced with, and only having Mr. Gasser’s statement, we thought it best that an arrest not be made for strategic reasons, until we could get other witnesses,” Normand said.

He also made reference to Louisiana’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

“In this state, whether we like it or not, we have a very forward-leaning ‘stand your ground’ self-defense, justifiable homicide law,” he said. “That creates for us an obligation to make sure that we get it right.”

What Happened at the Scene

Normand said the incident possibly began with McKnight’s vehicle cutting Gasser’s car off. In response, Gasser then pursued McKnight in a “road rage” encounter involving shouting that led to the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown.McKnight exited his vehicle, approached Gasser’s car and the two continued to argue. He was shot fatally when Gasser pulled a gun from between his seat and console, firing three times through his passenger window.

Normand said Gasser exited his vehicle, still holding the gun, to see what became of McKnight. Gasser then turned toward a Naval officer who was at the scene. Normand said the officer advised Gasser to stand down by suggesting, “He did not want to shoot a military officer.” Gasser surrendered when authorities arrived.

McKnight was a running back for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs from 2010 through 2014. He had played for the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League this year.

Hewas driving his stepfather’s vehicle at the time of the incident. He was unarmed, although in the vehicle, there was a gun that belonged to his stepfather. Normand confirmed that Gasser was not aware there was a gun in the vehicle.

The sheriff said Gasser’s official statement “is replete with statements about his fear of McKnight making threatening statements and otherwise.”

In regard to the manslaughter charge, he said, “We may get additional evidence that would allow the DA to up-charge, or we may get additional evidence that may compel the DA to down-charge.”

The sheriff’s office also issued a news release on Friday that said Gasser was involved in an incident on Feb. 20, 2006, resulting in a misdemeanor summons for simple battery. A man said Gasser attacked him at a service station, at the same intersection where he shot McKnight in Terrytown, striking him with a closed fist several times. The charge was dismissed, but will again be reviewed.

Video of Tuesday’s news conference (Warning: Explicit language within the video):

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