Not long after the man accused of shooting to death former NFL player Joe McKnight was charged Tuesday with manslaughter, the sheriff in New Orleans’ Jefferson Parish described — in unusually explicit terms — details of the road-rage incident, the resulting arrest and the pressure his office was under.

In a move that drew wide criticism last week, Ronald Gasser, 54, was released hours after the Thursday afternoon shooting, drawing immediate attention to Louisiana’s “stand your ground” law. Over the weekend, there were protests at a vigil for McKnight and state politicians promised to revisit the law. On Tuesday morning, Sheriff Newell Normand began his news conference by thanking McKnight’s family and friends for their “restraint and patience,” then quickly segued into a frank description of what had happened between the shooting and the arrest.

He clearly was incensed about the criticism and social media conversation, beginning with a lengthy defense of the time it took to charge Gasser, at one point reading off emails and messages in which authorities and elected officials were called profane and derogatory terms. Normand read those emails verbatim, right down to the racial and homophobic slurs over the time lag.

“Tough. I don’t care,” he said to critics of the four days that had elapsed. “What I know is that I can put my head on the pillow every night knowing we’ve done the right thing for the right reasons. . . . Justice is a marathon, not sprint.”

A man suspected of fatally shooting former NFL player Joe McKnight in a road rage incident near New Orleans has been arrested and charged with manslaughter. (Reuters)

Normand, who was flanked by several lawmakers, defended using the slurs, saying he hoped “it gets everybody to realize how crazy we’re getting.”

As for the case itself, Normand said authorities had conducted “over 160 interviews,” identifying “260 folks we had an interest in talking to.” Witnesses were identified from license plates from multiple cameras from around 70 business owners along the stretch of street on which the road-rage incident unfolded. Gasser, who waited for police at the scene after the incident, did more than 10 hours of interviews without a lawyer present and two with a lawyer. In addition, he gave consent to a search of his home.

The story of what unfolded came together, he said, after key witnesses were located Saturday and Monday. One of the first people interviewed lied, Normand said, adding, “Shame on that individual.” Finally, on Tuesday, Gasser was charged with manslaughter, Normand said, because “that most appropriately fit the evidence we have at this time. We may get additional evidence that may allow the [district attorney] to up charge or … down charge.”

Normand described what happened Thursday afternoon: Gasser and McKnight had engaged in a lengthy back and forth for several blocks, one that may have begun when McKnight, driving his stepfather’s truck, cut off Gasser. The two sparred verbally “many times” as they drove and eventually came to a red light. With Gasser’s car boxed in by traffic, McKnight exited the truck and approached Gasser’s vehicle. Normand did not say whether McKnight tried to open the door, but indicated that McKnight leaned down to talk to Gasser “eye to eye.” At some point, Gasser pulled a gun from the console and shot McKnight three times. McKnight was unarmed, although there was a gun that belonged to his stepfather in the truck. Officials said there was no reason to believe that McKnight had hinted that he had a gun or threatened to use it on Gasser.

“This is not racial,” Normand said. “What we had were two adult males engaged in unacceptable behavior who did not know how to deal in conflict resolution.”

On Friday, the sheriff’s office released details of a 2006 road-rage incident involving Gasser at the same intersection, drawing further criticism for the lack of an arrest in the McKnight case. That 2006 incident began when a 51-year-old man saw someone later identified as Gasser driving “unsafely” down a New Orleans road in a red pickup truck. The man first dialed a number printed on the truck instructing people to call if they saw the vehicle being operated unsafely. Gasser, the pickup’s driver, answered the call, police said.

The two got into what police described as “a verbal altercation” on the phone before the caller pulled into a service station to refuel. Police said Gasser followed the man into the service station, where he “began to strike him with a closed fist several times.”

“In this state, there are some relative statutes that provide defenses to certain crimes,” Normand said during a news conference Friday afternoon. “ . . . For example, officers have those same defenses, so when we shoot and kill someone it’s a homicide, but the question is, is it justified?”

The “stand your ground” law says a person does not have a “duty to retreat” when life-threatening or great bodily harm appears imminent. With renewed attention on the law, legislators at the McKnight vigil promised action.

“You can believe that we will be going back to the Capitol to work on legislation to make it clear [that] when people commit these crimes, they cannot hide behind laws that were intended to do one thing, and are used to disguise what appears to be [murder],” state Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) said (via

Rep. Rodney Lyons (D-Harvey) echoed that. “When we get back to the Legislature, we’ve got to find a way to look at these laws,” he said. “As we move forward, stand strong. Remember Joe, and remember his family.”