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New trial date set for Joe McKnight murder case

23rd October 2017   ·   0 Comments

A Jan. 16 trial date has been set for Ronald Gasser, the man accused of shooting and killing former NFL player and local native Joe McKnight.

Gasser was set to face a jury next month, but The New Orleans Advocate reported last week that both sides said they still need time to prepare for the trial.

Gasser is accused of following McKnight, 28, from Algiers to Terrytown after McKnight cut him off near the Crescent City Connection.

The incident culminated at the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard when Gasser, 55, shot McKnight through the passenger side window as the victim stood outside Gasser’s car arguing with him.

Gasser reportedly fired three shots into McKnight and waited at the scene of the fatal shooting until Jefferson Parish authorities arrived. He was not immediately arrested.

The shooting made national news because it was the second fatal shooting in New Orleans involving former NFL players stemming from road rage in 2016. The first involved former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith, who was gunned down in April 2016 after reportedly tapping another man’s car and being shot in the Garden District after a heated argument that turned deadly.

Then-Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who recently retired, received harsh criticism from McKnight’s family and friends, NFL players and members of the community for not immediately arresting Gasser.

Several Blacks who defended Normand’s decision were verbally attacked on social media and email, prompting Normand to hold a noon press conference during which he read the comments that included the N-word.

Normand also publicly dared those who posted comments on social media to follow through with threats about causing a major disturbance in Jefferson Parish to protest McKnight’s death, but McKnight’s family and friends asked the community to participate in a peaceful vigil and the gathering was held near the intersection where the shooting occurred without incident.

Members of the community vowed to boycott a number of Jefferson Parish businesses until the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office took steps to hold Gasser accountable for killing McKnight.

Gasser was taken into custody four days after the shooting.
After he was initially charged with manslaughter, those charges were later upgraded to second-degree murder after an investigation by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Gasser has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities have said Gasser admitted to shooting McKnight, a standout for John Curtis Christian School, the University of Southern California and the New York Jets, but defense attorneys representing Gasser said their client was standing his ground when he shot McKnight, who they described as the aggressor.

Gasser’s attorneys attempted to block the introduction of evidence from another road-rage incident a decade ago involving Gasser that occurred at the same intersection. That case, in which Gasser also claimed self-defense, never went to trial and the charges were eventually dismissed.

Judge Ellen Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court agreed to allow the earlier incident to be introduced during the trial, which was scheduled to begin Nov. 7. reported that Gasser is being held in protective custody for 23 hours a day because of the racially charged case’s high media exposure.

Gasser is white and McKnight is Black.

“My client has never been in jail for anything in his life,” defense attorney Matthew Goetz said last week. “Being in a cell 23 out of 24 hours a day is devastating for him.”

Among those demanding justice for Joe McKnight is J.T. Curtis, McKnight’s mentor, friend and former high school football coach.

Gasser is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 8 for a hearing on a motion to suppress witness statements from the 2006 road-rage incident.

This article originally published in the October 23, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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