Jury convicts man in shooting death of ex-NFL player Joe McKnight

A Louisiana man was found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the deadly shooting of former NFL player Joe McKnight, the Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office said.

Authorities say Ronald Gasser, 56, shot McKnight during a 2016 road-rage incident in the New Orleans suburb of Terrytown. Gasser had been indicted on a second-degree murder charge but the jury returned a lesser verdict Friday night after roughly eight hours of deliberations, CNN affiliate WGNO reported.

Gasser would have faced the possibility of a life sentence for a second-degree murder conviction, but instead he faces up to 40 years in prison because of the jury’s decision to convict on the lesser offense.

“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. We also want to thank the jurors for their service and incredible attentiveness they spent following the evidence,” Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said in a statement.

The altercation

The altercation began on the Crescent City Connection that crosses the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Terrytown, Sheriff Newell Normand said.

McKnight, driving his stepfather’s Audi Q7, cut off Gasser, who gave chase, Normand said. They stopped at the Terrytown intersection, where witnesses said the two men were “in a heated verbal exchange” from their vehicles until McKnight exited his vehicle.

The former athlete, who was at a passenger’s window of Gasser’s car, was shot in the right shoulder, the right chest and the hand. Gasser gave police a .40-caliber pistol and admitted shooting McKnight, Normand said in the first days of the investigation.

But authorities didn’t indict Gasser until some weeks after the shooting.

Louisiana’s self-defense laws demand police “get it right,” Normand said at the time.

A football star

McKnight, 28, spent his professional years with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.

He grew up playing football in River Ridge, a 30-minute drive from Terrytown. Before joining the NFL, he was named Louisiana’s “Mr. Football” in 2006, and The Times-Picayune newspaper named him the male high school athlete of the decade in 2009.

McKnight went on to play at the University of Southern California before being drafted in 2010 by New York, where he played until 2012. He sat out 2013, played 2014 with the Chiefs and 2015 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.