Murder of ex NFL player back in headlines

Joe McKnight

Joe McKnight was a top-rated running back coming out of John Curtis Christian School. From there, he attended Southern Cal before being drafted by the New York Jets, where he played for three seasons. McKnight also played a year with the Kansas City Chiefs before his NFL career was done.

No one would have expected a man with so much going for him would die on a bridge over the Mississippi River near New Orleans. But that’s exactly what happened. According to police, McKnight and a man named Ronald Gasser got into an argument on the road that escalated into road rage. Both vehicles stopped, and McKnight approached Gasser’s vehicle.

No one is sure exactly what happened next, but defense attorneys have argued McKnight attempted to climb through the passenger window of Gasser’s vehicle. Gasser then pulled out a handgun and shot McKnight three times. Gasser remained at the scene of the shooting, later cooperating with police investigating the case.

Now that case is headed to court. Initially, Gasser was charged with manslaughter, but that charge was elevated to second-degree murder prior to the beginning of the trial. Gasser has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense. Despite this plea, Gasser remains in jail awaiting trial.

Throughout the pretrial, defense attorneys have repeatedly said McKnight was definitely the aggressor, and that their client, Gasser, acted in self-defense because he was in fear for his life. Meanwhile, it’s telling that the state of Louisiana upgraded the charge after all the evidence was collected. Clearly, the state believes Gasser did not act in self-defense, and that the shooting was not justified.

The details and the reasoning behind the claims and charges remain largely sketchy but will come out in the trial. Meanwhile, the case is in the court of public opinion, with people lining up clearly on either side of the incident. Some believe Gasser provoked McKnight and that if he had not provoked the former NFL player, that McKnight would be alive today. Others believe that Gasser was justified. Maybe he and McKnight provoked each other, but it was McKnight who chose to exit his vehicle and charge Gasser’s car.

Soon, the case will be argued and go to the jury. If convicted, Gasser could face life in prison. Prosecutors are expected to call several character witnesses on behalf of McKnight, which may include former NFL teammates.

Some are saying the case strongly resembles another high-profile murder case involving a former NFL player. Former New Orleans Saints star, Will Smith, who was with the team during their 2010 Super Bowl victory, was killed in a confrontation after an auto accident. In that case, the shooter, Cardell Hayes, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company’s growth, overseeing more than 275 professionals. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world’s most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine’s Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country’s foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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