The last resort?
the story so far O n 1 December 2016, American football star Joe Mcknight angered motorist Ronald Gasser with his dangerous driving. The heated argument turned fatal when Mcknight got out of his car – only to be shot by Gasser... Or did this driver fear
The pair charged along the motorway
In 2010, Joe Mcknight’s dreams of being a professional American football player came true when he was signed to the New York Jets.
Over the next few years, Mcknight went on to become a star player.
Until an Achilles injury ended his NFL career in 2014.
He moved to the Canadian Football League, joining the Saskatchewan Roughriders in September 2016.
Then, one afternoon three months later, the running back, 28, was charging down a New Orleans motorway in his car...
Ducking and weaving between traffic at high speed, Mcknight enraged other drivers with his recklessness, leaving a symphony of blaring horns in his wake.
At the Greater New Orleans Bridge, Mcknight cut off Ronald Gasser, 54.
Angered, Gasser exchanged insults and middle fingers with Mcknight as the pair charged aggressively along the motorway!
After a heated five miles, the pair pulled over at an intersection. Mcknight got out of his car. As he approached the passenger window of Gasser’s sedan, the situation escalated to a bloody conclusion. Gasser pulled out a 40-calibre Smith and Wesson pistol and fired three bullets at the football player. Mcknight was hit in his right shoulder, chest and left hand, and quickly bled to death. Gasser was arrested at the scene. He was questioned by detectives and admitted to killing Mcknight. Only, eight hours later, he was released without charge. Mcknight’s family, friends, fans and former teammates were outraged.
After further investigation, Ronald Gasser was charged with murder.
If convicted, Gasser – who’d served six years as a US Marine – faced life in prison. This January, the trial began. Gasser pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, and a lesser charge of manslaughter.
He claimed that he’d acted in self-defence.
Defence lawyer Matthew Goetz told the jury Gasser was merely trying to get home from work that December afternoon.
He hadn’t been looking for a confrontation.
The defence maintained Mcknight’s arrogance instigated the incident, and his aggression escalated it.
‘He chose to drive like a maniac,’ Goetz insisted.
Several witnesses testified that Mcknight was driving recklessly, at high speed, and posed a risk to other drivers. Gasser took the stand. He told the jury he felt his
life was in danger when Mcknight approached his car.
He claimed Mcknight threatened to kill him and lunged in through the open passenger window.
Gasser said he was not a gun enthusiast and only had the weapon for his own protection.
In Louisiana, state law allows someone to use lethal force if they feel a threat is entering their home or car. ‘Every life is precious,’ Gasser told the jury. ‘So is mine – and, at that precise moment, I felt that my life was about to be snuffed out.’ Fearing for his life, he said he’d fired his weapon as a last resort. Yet the prosecution weren’t convinced. They agreed Mcknight had been driving dangerously. But they pointed out many witnesses said either of the men could’ve stopped reacting to each other’s aggression. Let the situation go, long before its deadly end. Yet, they suggested, Gasser had seen Mcknight’s behaviour as a challenge and responded equally aggressively – and had given chase. They also pointed to some discrepancies in Gasser’s story. At first, he’d claimed he’d taken the same motorway exit as Mcknight because that was his way home. Except this wasn’t true. ‘Mr Gasser thought Mr Mcknight had thrown the gauntlet down,’ said prosecuting lawyer Seth Shute. ‘He followed him off the exit. This was not his exit.’ Gasser claimed he’d only taken a different route as he was distracted and shaken by the incident. But the prosecution argued Gasser deliberately followed Mcknight to provoke him. And postmortem results showed no gunpowder was found on the victim’s body – meaning Mcknight couldn’t have been that close to his killer.
It called into question Gasser’s claim that Mcknight had violently lunged at him through the window.
Plus witnesses said Mcknight had only placed his left hand on the passenger door when Gasser fired.
More damning evidence was to follow…
This wasn’t the first roadrage incident involving Gasser.
There’d been another one 10 years earlier. At the same intersection. In 2006, Gasser had been accused of repeatedly punching another motorist who’d argued with him about his erratic driving.
Though Gasser was never prosecuted, Seth Shute told jurors this incident was proof of Gasser’s temper.
His willingness to resort to violence quickly.
Again, Gasser’s defence lawyers claimed both men were throwing punches during the incident back in 2006.
That Gasser was only defending himself.
But the prosecution noted similarities in Gasser’s versions of both incidents, his cries of self-defence.
‘It’s always someone else’s fault,’ the prosecuting lawyer said.
And, with that, Ronald Gasser’s fate was in the jury’s hands.
But which version of events were they going to believe?
Had he opened fire on the athlete out of fear for his own life?
Or did he have a short fuse and an itchy trigger finger?
ROAD RAGE? Ronald Gasser