In an extraordinary, expletive-laden news conference, Jefferson Parish, La., Sheriff Newell Normand said yesterday that the confessed killer of former NFL player Joe McKnight had been booked on a count of manslaughter, then took to angrily denouncing those who questioned why the shooter had initially been released without charges, reports The Advocate. Ronald Gasser, 54, was arrested late Monday, four days after shooting McKnight over what Normand described as a traffic dispute. The initial decision to release Gasser, who is white, soon after he shot McKnight, who was black, ignited local protests and drew fierce condemnation on social media, where critics questioned whether a black shooting suspect would have walked free under similar circumstances.
In a coincidence, the McKnight case played out just as a murder trial began in New Orleans over the death of former Saints lineman Will Smith, who was shot in April by a black suspect who was immediately arrested. Normand said the decision to release Gasser last week had nothing to do with his race. He quoted from comments posted on social media — omitting none of the offensive epithets they contained — and suggested that both men in the altercation bore some of the blame. “Let us not try to make this out to be something that it is not,” Normand said. “What we had were two adult males engaged in unacceptable behavior.” The sheriff took offense at online abuse directed at Mark Spears, the sole black member of the Jefferson Parish Council, who stood next to the sheriff in a news conference on the case last week. “It’s not fair,” Normand said. “It’s not fair for him to be called ‘You punk ass, Uncle Tom coon, we saw you sell out to him, you rat-ass, faggot punk.’ ”