Ronald Gasser was found guilty of manslaughter in a Jefferson Parish, Louisiana courtroom on Friday evening for the Dec. 2016 shooting death of ex-NFL running back Joe McKnight.
What began as an erratic five-mile, high-speed chase ended in a deadly confrontation at an intersection. Gasser presented a defense, which claimed that McKnight threatened to enter his vehicle through the passenger-side door before he fired the fatal shot.
According to the testimony of Deputy Doris Green, Gasser, 56, told him, “He [McKnight] got out, he put his hand in my vehicle and I shot him.”
Prosecutors poked holes in Gasser’s story via forensic evidence, which found no gunpowder residue on McKnight’s body. The absence of gunpowder particles cast doubt on the defense’s argument that Gasser fired in self-defense, per The Times-Picayune.
“It’s impossible. There is no way he lunged into that vehicle. He would have been covered in stippling,” she said, referring to the cuts that unburned gunpowder makes on skin when a gun is fired at close range.
Swaim addressed the state’s self-defense laws, explaining that the statute allows lethal self-defense if he knows someone forcibly enters his vehicle and he must take the steps necessary, i.e. to get the person out or stop them from entering.
But the law isn’t meant to protect property, Swaim said. It’s to stop someone from entering the vehicle to hurt you, she said.
“That law was not intended for you to shoot someone who puts his hands on your car,” Swaim said.
Instead, District Attorney Shannon Swaim and prosecutor Seth Shute depicted Gasser as an aggressor, thus chipping away at his justifiable homicide defense.
“[McKnight’s] hand was on Mr. Gasser’s car, and it was just another challenge,” Shute said. “It’s not a reason to shoot somebody.
Through testimony from witnesses, the prosecution painted a vivid picture of Gasser as a enraged driver who engaged in a war of words and obscenities before swerving off the freeway in pursuit of McKnight.
McKnight was one of the top high school football recruits after winning three state championships at Louisiana’s John Curtis Christian School. At USC, McKnight was billed as the “next Reggie Bush.” Following his junior season, McKnight declared for the 2010 NFL draft and spent four NFL seasons on the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.
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