The man who shot and killed Joe McKnight has a history of road rage incidents, according to reporting by the New Orleans Advocate. Ronald Gasser shot Joe McKnight through an open window of his passenger car, while both were stopped at an intersection, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, in what was described as a road rage incident.
However, the Louisiana law dealing with justifiable homicide, including “Stand Your Ground” as well as a section dealing with defense of property, including a motor vehicle, will be very much at the center of this case.
A person can justifiably use deadly force in Louisiana “who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.” A person can use also deadly force against some attempting “unlawful entry” into a car if that person “reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the … motor vehicle.”
McKnight was unarmed when he was shot and killed. Factual questions about whether he was attempting entry, or whether McKnight’s actions would provide Gasser a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to save himself or prevent McKnight from entering his car, will be tested. The Sheriff’s office noted that the shooting happened through an open window of the passenger side, and one could make a persuasive argument that rolling the window down is not the action of someone with reasonable belief of fear (versus someone yelling at another).
Another factor that will be investigated, because it could go to evidence of credibility on Gasser’s claims on who was the aggressor: Gasser’s history when it comes to road rage incidents. At yesterday’s news conference, when asked if Gasser had any legal history, referenced something that happened a decade earlier, without further details.
Last night, they did release those details, and it was directly related to road rage. In 2006, Gasser was issued a misdemeanor summons for simple battery, after he was accused of punching a man at a gas station.
Gasser’s first known brush with authorities happened after a 51-year-old man from Marrero called 911 in Jefferson Parish to report that another man was driving a red pickup truck unsafely on Holiday Drive, in the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers. The truck had a phone number that motorists could call to report unsafe driving, and the man dialed it, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Gasser picked up and told the caller he was the person driving the truck in question, the Sheriff’s Office said. An argument ensued; the caller then pulled into a gasoline station to refuel his car at the intersection of Holmes Boulevard and Behrman Highway, just past the Jefferson Parish line, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Gasser followed the caller, confronted him and began striking him “with a closed first several times,” the Sheriff’s Office said. Gasser then left, and the other man called 911, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
That case was ultimately dismissed by prosecutors, though with the passage of time, discerning the reason for that dismissal may not be as easy. The Sheriff’s Office said, “We will continue to research this matter in order to determine the reason for the dismissal. Once we are able to determine (that), we will report the outcome of our review.”
The New Orleans Advocate also reported that another man came forward this week, after seeing the news of the shooting, and claimed Gasser was involved in other road rage incidents in the same area, even though no police reports were filed.
Mohammad Mussa came forward and said “He’s been like this. He’s been road raging.” Mussa described two incidents, one where Mussa passed Gasser and then Gasser sped back past him and cussed him out at a stop light, and another where Gasser “rolled his window down and he told me ‘F*** you’ and he rolled off.”