Louisianan Convicted of Manslaughter in NFLer’s Death

The late Joe McKnight is seen in this Nov. 18, 2012, photo with the New York Jets during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

(CN) – A Louisiana man was found guilty of manslaughter Friday for fatally shooting former NFL player Joe McKnight during a road-rage incident just over a year ago.

Ronald Gasser, 56, of Terrytown, La., a suburb of New Orleans, had originally been charged with manslaughter before prosecutors indicted him on an elevated charge of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

The Dec. 1, 2016, road-rage incident occurred on the Crescent City Connection Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River from New Orleans. During a confrontation between the two men, 28-year-old Joe McKnight, a black man, was fatally shot. Gasser, who is white, was apprehended at the scene and taken in for questioning.

Police said witnesses reported Gasser and McKnight – who played three seasons for the National Football League’s New York Jets and one with the Kansas City Chiefs – were driving erratically and yelling at each other on the bridge before they stopped.

A jury in Gretna, La., convicted Ronald Gasser on Jan. 26, 2018, of killing former NFL running back Joe McKnight during a road-rage dispute. (Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office)

The clash with McKnight wasn’t Gasser’s first brush with the law, nor the first in which he was charged in relation to a road-rage incident.

He previously faced manslaughter charges after an incident in February 2006 when he followed a motorist he was upset with into a gas station and punched him as he refilled gas. Those charges were eventually dropped.

Gasser’s attorneys reportedly argued that he killed McKnight in self-defense.

But a Louisiana jury didn’t buy it and found Gasser guilty on Friday of the lesser offense of manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 15, according to the Associated Press.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick thanked the jurors in a statement Friday.

We offer our most sincere condolences to the McKnight family and hope they can find peace in knowing that justice has been served in this case,” Connick said.  

Gasser’s defense attorney said he will appeal.

McKnight was considered the No. 1 running back recruit in the country when he came out of John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana in 2006. He signed with the University of Southern California, where he ran for 2,213 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 66 passes for 542 yards and two scores in three seasons, according to the Associated Press.

After his time in the NFL, McKnight played for the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.

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