The family of the man accused of killing former NFL player Joe McKnight in a New Orleans road rage incident, which some say was racially motivated, is speaking out in his defense.
Ronald Gasser's family members say he is not a racist, the Daily Mail reports.
"Ronnie has a good heart," said 73-year-old Mary Short, the widow of Gasser's father. "I've never seen him be violent or anything like that. I don't think this is about race. I've lived around black people all of my life and I don't think like that and neither does Ronnie."
The family members say they are now praying for both 54-year-old Gasser and 28-year-old McKnight.
Gasser admitted to shooting and killing McKnight after the two had a "road rage" incident.
Gasser has not been charged and is not being held by police, sparking racial tensions in New Orleans. Many view the incident as a hate crime, and the NAACP has become involved.
“This man apparently believes that he had the right to settle the score with a young black man by using a weapon,” said the president of the Westbank chapter of the NAACP. The chapter claims police are giving Gasser "special treatment," WWLTV reports. “We cannot continue to have that situation in our country. We have to stand up,” the president said.
Police say they do not believe the attack was racially motivated, and said they released Gasser because they did not have enough evidence.
“This isn’t about race,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said. “The gentleman who raised Joe McKnight Jr. used to work for this office. Many of those who work here are close to his family.”
“A rush to judgment does not equal anything," Normand said later, adding that if there was going to be any bias, Gasser would be the one at a disadvantage. "In fact, in the criminal justice process, if you don't dot every 'I' and cross every 't' and there are deficiencies, it has dire consequences."
Investigators say they are still trying to understand what Gasser's motives were.
While there's no indication Gasser had racist tendencies, his criminal records show a history of problematic and dangerous driving habits.
Gasser has had numerous run-ins with the law over traffic offenses. One time, he allegedly chased a former policeman and attempted to beat him up after spitting at him in 2006.