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Man gets 30 years for road rage killing of ex-NFL player

Joe McKnight was killed by Ronald Gasser in a 2016 road-rage shooting.

(AP photo)

GRETNA, La. – The man convicted for manslaughter in 2016, road rage, shooting death of former NFL running back Joe McKnight was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday.

Ronald Gasser, 56, had faced up to 40 years in prison. Defense lawyers argued that Gasser fired in self-defense when McKnight walked to his car, after a 5-mile confrontation that began on a bridge over the Mississippi River in New Orleans and ended with gunfire in the neighboring Jefferson Parish.

Ronald Gasser, 56, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for awarding former NFL running back Joe McKnight in 2016.

(Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office)

McKnight’s mother testified Thursday during the sentencing hearing. Jennifer McKnight left the courtroom in sobs after angry to tell Gasser: “You didn’t have to do.”

Witnesses at the trial said McKnight had been weaving in and out of traffic at high speed for the shooting. Prosecutors acknowledged to the jury that he was, in the words of Assistant district Attorney Seth Shute, “driving like a jerk.” But they argued that Gasser escalated the conflict, to follow him to an exit, which he would not normally have been taken just before the shooting.

Shute acknowledged that McKnight had a hand on the open passenger-side window of a Gasser car, before he was shot to death. But he said physical evidence was found Gasser lied during an extensive police questioning when he, according to McKnight lunged for him.

McKnight had a high school football hero in Louisiana John Curtis Christian School. He signed with the University of Southern California in 2006. In the NFL, he played three seasons for the New York Jets and one with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gasser was indicted on a second-degree murder charges. The jury voted 10-2 for the lesser verdict of manslaughter.

Gasser has not left the scene of the shooting and he was released for a time after being questioned. He is white and his release after the shooting of the black athlete which led to protests from some who said race was a factor.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who is now retired, denied that race played a role and noted that a thorough investigation has led to Gasser’s arrest and indictment. Prosecutors later told a painstaking research, including an extensive search for witnesses and physical evidence that eventually led to Gasser be charged.

The case is in some respects echoed other New Orleans-area road rage shooting from 2016. Former New Orleans Saints star will Smith was shot in the April incident. The shooter was later convicted for manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years.

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