Sheriff Defends Delayed Arrest of Joe McKnight’s Confessed Killer, Quotes Epithet-Laden Online Comments

By Sameer Rao Dec 07, 2016

In the days following Joe McKnight‘s death, Sheriff Newell Normand of Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish has faced critique that he delayed arresting Ronald Gasser—the White man who confessed to killing the Black ex-NFL player—because of his race. He responded to those critiques by quoting racist and homophobic epithet-laden social media comments during a press conference yesterday (December 6).

According to The New Orleans Advocate, Normand insisted that race played no role in Gasser’s release hours after his initial arrest. He went on to say that McKnight shared responsibility for his own deadly shooting on December 1. "Let us not try to make this out to be something that it is not," he said. "What we had were two adult males engaged in unacceptable behavior." Normand cited the need to complete a full investigation as the reason for the delayed arrest.

Normand then addressed online abuse that he said was lobbied against city officials, including Mark Spears, Jefferson Parish Council’s lone Black member. Spears stood beside Normand during last week’s press conference about the shooting. "It’s not fair for him to be called ‘You punk ass, Uncle Tom coon, we saw you sell out to him, you rat-ass, faggot punk,’" Normand read, quoting epithet-laden social media comments.

Normand’s rant was captured by Fox 10 Phoenix in the video above. The Wrap noted that the MSNBC telecast was cut short by anchor Tamron Hall, who apologized for the profanity and explained that Normand continued to use "racial slurs and homophobic remarks that we did not prepare and did not honestly expect from the sheriff of a police department."

When asked later in the press conference why he used the epithets, Normand replied, "I hope it gets everybody to realize how crazy we’re getting." 

Gasser confessed to the road rage killing and now faces manslaughter charges. He was initially booked and released by authorities, prompting calls for justice from critics, including the local NAACP chapter and community advocacy coalition Take Em Down NOLA. "We’re not satisfied with the charges, that’s the bottom line," NAACP chapter president Gaylor Spiller told The Advocate. "The man should be charged at least with second-degree murder."

In Louisiana, manslaughter is charged for killings that are "committed in sudden passion or heat of blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive an average person of his self-control and cool reflection." It carries a possible sentence of 10 to 40 years. Second-degree murder involves an offender who "has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm." A guilty verdict could bring a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.