The Associated Press reports that the man who killed NFL running back Joe McKnight in a 2016 road rage event has been found guilty of manslaughter by a Louisiana jury. Ronald Gasser, 56, was charged with second-degree murder and faced a maximum sentence of life behind bars. Manslaughter, however, carries up to 40 years in jail. His sentencing date has been set for March 15.
Prosecutors told media outlets that the McKnight family is pleased with the verdict and that justice has been served. Defense attorneys say they will appeal the verdict. The jury began deliberations Friday afternoon.
According to police reports, McKnight’s death occurred after a 5-mile confrontation with aggressive driving on a bridge in New Orleans. He was shot at an intersection while standing outside of Gasser’s vehicle.
Prosecutors told the court that McKnight was driving erratically, weaving in and out of traffic. However, Gasser took his driving as a challenge and followed him off of an exit that he wouldn’t have needed to take. He also had a hand on the open passenger side window of Gasser’s vehicle before he was shot. Gasser gave a statement that McKnight lunged at him, which evidence disputed – there was no gunpowder found on his body.
Defense attorneys stated that Gasser was not seeking a confrontation and that McKnight approached his car of his own accord. In Louisiana, it is legal to use lethal force if someone believes another person is trying to enter their home or vehicle as a threat.
McKnight played three seasons with the New York Jets and one with the Kansas City Chiefs. He also played a season with the Canadian Football League. He was shot on December 1, 2016. Gasser did not leave the scene of the crime and was questioned for 8 hours by police. Some claim the shooting was racially charged – Gasser is white and McKnight was black.
*Photo credit the AP