Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand denied an alleged eyewitness account of Joe McKnight’s shooting during a press conference on Friday, including a statement that McKnight issued an apology to shooting suspect Ronald Gasser during the altercation.
“Mr. Gasser did not stand over Mr. McKnight and fire shots into him,” he said. “The three casings were located in the vehicle. Mr. Gasser was in his vehicle when he fired three shots.
“There is no video that we’ve been able to recover at this point in time,” he added. “We have no eyewitness account of an apology from Mr. McKnight to Mr. Gasser.”
On Thursday, former NFL player McKnight was shot and killed in Louisiana in what authorities are calling a road rage incident. Glasser was identified as the suspect in the shooting, however he was released from custody overnight without being charged. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Col. John Fortunato told ABC News he said there was no reason to continue holding Gasser.
The Times-Picayune reported that a witness observed McKnight arguing with another man at an intersection in Terrytown. She said McKnight was trying to apologize when the man drew a gun and shot him multiple times.
The shooter then allegedly stood over McKnight and said, “I told you, don’t you f– with me” before firing again.
A coroner’s office representative said during the press conference said autopsy results revealed that McKnight’s “wounds are not consistent with being shot from above or on the ground,” which contradicts the alleged eyewitness account that the shooter stood over McKnight. The representative went on to say that McKnight sustained three gunshot wounds, one through his finger, one to his shoulder that punctured his right lung, and one that entered his chest and exited his back, piercing his liver.
According to ABC News, Normand said at a press conference Thursday night that Gasser stayed at the scene of the shooting and “relinquished his weapon to our officers” when he was taken into custody.
Gasser’s release sparked fury on social media among those perplexed that he was no longer being detained despite having admitted to the crime.
“In this state, there are some relative statutes that provide defenses to certain crimes. Officers have those same defenses,” Normand told news outlets. “So when we shoot and kill somebody — it’s a homicide — the question is, is it justified?”
In response to comments on social media, Normand said, “I’ve been already accused of dropping the ball and not doing this or doing that because we released Mr. Gasser last evening after we took his statement. As I said before: External influences will not motivate this office, one way or the other, as to how we are going to conduct this investigation strategically. And because there are witnesses that are out there, I can not go into this at this point in time.”
He added, “Everyone wants to make this about race. This isn’t about race. And I’ll just throw this out, folks … the gentleman that raised Joe McKnight Jr. used to work for this office. So this office and many of the officers that are sitting over there, they are close to his family.”
On Thursday night, Fortunato added that a grand jury or the district attorney will decide whether or not charges should be filed against Gasser.
“People can Monday morning quarterback what we’ve done — Mr. Gasser is not going anywhere, he has been completely cooperative with us,” added Normand.
When asked about Gasser’s criminal history, Normand said Gasser has an “issue” that’s 10 years old on his record.