Joe McKnight, a former NFL running back, was shot in Terrytown, Louisiana, in what officials are calling a road rage incident, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. He was 28 years old.
Jefferson Parrish Sheriff Newell Normand say McKnight was involved in an altercation around 3 p.m. Thursday. The assailant, was later identified by police as Ronald Gasser, 54, but it is not clear what the catalyst was for the violence.
According to bystanders on the scene Gasser purportedly said “I told you, don’t you f*ck with me,” upon firing on McKnight more than once.
McKnight’s family arrived on the scene, only to find their relative lying dead on a highway in between McKnight’s gray Audi SUV and Gasser’s blue Infiniti sedan. McKnight is Black and Gasser is White, but it was unclear if race played a role in the shooting.
A visual captured by the Times-Picayune depicts paramedics attempting to revive McKnight, as with witnesses in the background. “This could have been any of us,” a voice says in the video.
Normand, told reporters that Gasser was compliant with them. He turned in the gun, used to kill McKnight, and was taken into custody. Gasser told authorities McKnight was not carrying a gun, which was confirmed by deputies.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office declined to charge Gasser, and released him from custody overnight. Investigators have sought out counsel from the District Attorney’s office on whether Gasser should be criminally charged, a spokesman for the JPSO said. The department is asking for anyone with additional information to come forward as the investigation moves forward.
McKnight’s stepfather, Elmo Lee, told Fox’s New Orleans affiliate McKnight was nearing a contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I just want people to know that this was not a troubled kid,” he said. “The boy was just trying to make it back in the NFL, that’s all he wanted to do. That was his whole dream since six years old. I’ve been knowing him from six, and this is just senseless, and it has to stop. Somewhere it has to stop.”
McKnight, a standout football player in the state of Louisiana, became a household name as he earned All-State honors and multiple state championships at Curtis High School. He received a scholarship to play at the prestigious University of Southern California, where he excelled for three seasons, amassing over 2,500 all-purpose yards.
His dream of becoming a professional football player would come true in 2010, when he was selected by the New York Jets in the fourth round. McKnight struggled to reach the same success as he had achieved during his prep career in the pros. He failed to score a touchdown for the Jets, where he saw time as a running back and a kick returner. In one season with the Kansas City Chiefs, McKnight reached the end zone twice, however an injury only allowed him to play in two games. The following year, McKnight suited up for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League.
Several of McKnight’s former teams and teammates expressed their sentiments after his death.
“Joe McKnight was a loving father and a genuine, kind hearted person,” the Jets wrote via Twitter. “It is sad when life is taken in what appears to be such a senseless act of violence. Joe, you will be missed.”