We can’t let Joe McKnight’s killer go free.
“This isn’t about race,” said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand after he released the killer of former NFL star Joe McKnight with no charges.1
In 2016, when a white man chases down a Black man in his car and shoots him, it’s hard to imagine it had nothing to do with race. And if one thing IS clear, it’s that the decision to let Ronald Gasser–previously arrested in 2006 for beating someone in another road rage incident–go free of charges is about protecting yet another white murderer.2
Today, we’ll see the NFL honor Joe McKnight’s life during today’s games, while the systems that were supposed to protect him make it clear that his Black life didn’t matter to them. It’s enraging. But if the Sheriff’s department won’t file charges and arrest Gasser, the District Attorney’s office must. In 2012, when people stood up to demand the arrest of George Zimmerman after he killed Trayvon Martin, we won.3 At a time when Donald Trump’s election has increased racist attacks, local officials have to make it clear that Black lives matter.4 Will you sign the petition to make sure Ronald Gasser doesn’t get away scot-free?
The decision to let Ronald Gasser go has everything to do with race. Louisiana has the highest arrest rate in the country–there’s absolutely no reason McKnight’s killer would’ve usually been let free.5Police don’t need to provide enough evidence to convict a suspect, just a probable cause that they committed a crime. At the very least, evidence allows the Sheriff to charge Gasser with unlawful discharge of a weapon–which includes shooting most guns within 5,500 feet of a road or highway.6 Yet, he was charged with absolutely nothing. This case is eerily similar to an incident in which NFL star Will Smith was killed in a road rage incident, and the killer, Cardell Hayes, was immediately arrested on charges of second-degree murder.7 The only difference is Hayes is Black, and Gasser is white.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Normand hinted that consideration of Louisiana’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law could be a factor in this case.8 And we know, from the cases of George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander, that Stand Your Ground too often falls apart in court when used to protect Black people and stands as firm as the pillars of white supremacy when used to protect white killers. Research shows that in ‘Stand Your Ground’ states, white people who kill Black people are 354 percent more likely to be justified in court than white people who kill other white people.9 We can’t allow police to hold up a law like ‘Stand Your Ground’ as an excuse to let Joe McKnight’s killer walk free.
Until justice is real,
–Arisha, Rashad, Scott, Clarise, and the rest of the Color Of Change team
1. “Should JPSO have arrested Joe McKnight’s shooter? Experts disagree,” The Times-Picayune, December 2, 2016
2. “Joe McKnight’s shooter was cited in 2006 road rage incident, beating at same Terrytown spot: JPSO,”The Times-Picayune, December 2, 2016
3. “Trayvon Martin shooting: A timeline of events,” CBS News, July 12, 2013
4. “Racist Incidents Are Up Since Donald Trump’s Election. These Are Just a Few of Them,” TIME, November 13, 2016
5. “Joe McKnight’s killer went free in an area with the highest arrest rate in the country,” Think Progress, December 3, 2016
6. “Should JPSO have arrested Joe McKnight’s shooter? Experts disagree,” The Times-Picayune, December 2, 2016
7. “One went straight to jail after killing NFL star; one went home,” The Times-Picayune, December 2, 2016
8. “Joe McKnight’s shooting: What we know Sunday morning,” The Times-Picayune, December 4, 2016
9. “5 Disturbing Facts About The State Of Stand Your Ground On The Second Anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s Death,” Think Progress, February 26, 2014
If Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand won’t file charges, the District Attorney must.