A Louisiana sheriff on Friday said “relative statutes” justified authorities in not charging the man who admitted to shooting and killing former NFL player and New Orleans native Joe McKnight during a traffic dispute Thursday afternoon.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Norman did not provide further details about the events that led to McKnight’s killing, but vaguely explained during a press conference Friday afternoon why officers decided not to immediately charge the shooter, 54-year-old Robert Gasser.
“In this state, there are some relative statutes that provide defenses to certain crimes,” Norman said. “You have, for example, officers [who] have that same defense. When we shoot and kill somebody, that’s a homicide. The question is, is that justified?” he added.
Gasser, who stayed on the scene until police arrived and turned his gun over to officers, was released from custody Friday morning. His release sparked protests outside the sheriff's office.
McKnight, 28, was considered the top running back in the country when he signed to play for the University of Southern California in 2007. He went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets in the NFL from 2010-2014.
His former teammates, coaches, teams, and other NFL players expressed their grief over his death on Twitter.
McKnight was shot to death around 3 p.m. Thursday during an apparent dispute with Gasser at a busy intersection in Terrytown, Louisiana. McKnight was unarmed.
Norman said Friday that while the investigation was ongoing, witnesses have said that the argument “may have been simply cutting one off in front of one recklessly while driving on the bridge.”
The sheriff did not specify which of the men cut the other one off on the road.
A spokesperson for the coroner’s office said that McKnight suffered three gunshot wounds: one to his left hand, one to his shoulder, and one to his chest. The bullet that struck his shoulder punctured his lung, and the one to his chest went into his kidney and through his liver.
The spokesperson said the wounds contradicted previous witness statements that Gasser had stood over McKnight as he shot him.
“This isn’t about race,” Norman said. “The gentleman that raised Joe used to work for this office. The person that’s probably got more of a concern than anybody is probably Mr. Gasser.”