McKnight shooting exposes police violence

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

On Dec. 1, former NFL player Joe McKnight was shot and killed in an apparent road rage incident in Jefferson Parish. While Ronald Gasser is undoubtedly guilty of murder, charging him with manslaughter is the correct choice because it is the charge most likely to get him convicted. Louisiana police, however, must be more transparent in policy and practices.

In the incident, one party allegedly cut the other off in traffic, and the two pulled over at a gas station in Terrytown, Lousiana. Perpetrator Gasser yelled at McKnight using racial slurs. Witnesses claimed that Gasser first shot McKnight, who fell, and then Gasser stepped over his body and fired twice more, killing him.

Gasser stayed until the police came, admitted to killing McKnight and handed over his gun. He was taken into custody but was released even before the press conference the next day.

It’s hard not to see the similarities between this and the Trayvon Martin case. A white Hispanic man, George Zimmerman, killed Martin, a black teenager, and was not convicted due to Florida’s stand-your-ground law that permits people to use lethal force in self-defense. Louisiana also has such a law, and like Martin, McKnight had no weapon and posed no threat to the attacker. McKnight’s murder appears to have been excused by the police, just like Martin’s.

Louisianans reacted with rage to Gasser’s release. Releasing him with no charges implies one of two possible situations: either the police are corrupt and racist, or they lack any transparency in communicating with the public.

Gasser was accused of manslaughter on Dec. 6. The incident seems to suggest murder in the second-degree, as Gasser did not set out with the intention of killing McKnight but did do so in malice. Voluntary manslaughter, however, implies a heat of the moment crime of passion.

It’s easier to get a conviction on manslaughter charges. A jury could argue that second-degree murder is overcharging. Gasser killed McKnight, so justice must be pursued by the most likely means of getting a conviction.

The length of time between Gasser’s release and charging was confusing. Residents of Jefferson Parish deserve more clarity in police practices to build trust between communities and police.

This issue grabbed the attention of journalist and activist Shaun King.

“It’s hard for me to not believe that race was a factor in this killing,” King said, citing other recent examples of hate crimes against people of color in the United States.

The police may be covering their tracks by charging Gasser, but this issue is far from over. Police must improve transparency to build stronger coalitions between police and citizens.

Sarah is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]