The man accused of fatally shooting a former New York Jets running back in an alleged road-rage incident on Dec. 1 has been released from police custody without charges against him.
A witness told police that Ronald Gasser, 54, shot 28-year-old Joe McKnight three times at an intersection in Terrytown, Louisiana, outside of New Orleans.
The witness said that before firing the last shot, Gasser told McKnight not to "f**k" with him while standing over his body, according to the New York Post.
Sheriff Newell Normand said at a Dec. 2 press conference that the witness’ testimony was incorrect.
“Mr. Gasser did not stand over Mr. McKnight and fire shots into him,” Normand said, adding that Gasser was in his vehicle when he fired the shots and three shell cases were found inside of it.
Normand also said that a witness who claimed McKnight apologized to Gasser was wrong.
Police questioned Gasser and set him free overnight.
“The easiest thing for me [to say] would have been, ‘Book him, Danno,'” Normand said. “Right? But the fact of the matter is that in trying to flesh out these details as it relates to all of this and not having that rush to judgment and doing this in a very deliberate and appropriate fashion, we chose not to do that."
Gasser was reportedly involved in a violent altercation with a driver in 2006 at the same intersection where McKnight was killed. He beat a man several times and authorities charged him with misdemeanor battery. Those charges were later dismissed.
Normand said the McKnight shooting was not about race, which has been suggested given Gasser is white and McKnight black.
“Of course, where that leads us at this point in time is that everybody wants to make this about race,” Normand said, according to Pro Football Talk. “This isn’t about race. And I’ll just throw this out folks so that everybody knows and there’s no hiding the ball. The gentleman that raised Joe McKnight used to work for this office.”
Investigators are continuing to look into the incident, and are consulting with the district attorney's office on whether to file charges against Gasser, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sherifff's Office told The Times-Picayune.
Teammates and family members of McKnight are upset that Gasser was released from custody.
“It’s got me sick to my stomach,” Shantell Dobard, a relative of McKnight, said. "I’m just disappointed how they just let him go free after he shot to death an unarmed man. The system is so screwed up."
“It’s so unfortunate, man,” Jets defensive back Antonio Allen told the New York Post. "People take small things and blow them up into something big, and someone lost his life over something dumb. It’s just evil."
“I don't get it," former Jets player Antonio Cromartie tweeted on Dec. 2. "How in hell do you release someone who killed my brother, my friend a father a son a brother without charging him. Bull Crap."
Normand said at the press conference that “no stone” will be left unturned in the investigation.