The authorities in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana initially did not arrest Ronald Gasser, the 54-year-old man who shot and killed former NFL running back Joe McKnight last week. Gasser has since been arrested for manslaughter.
Sheriff Newell Normand, whose press conference from Friday seemed unreasonably defensive and unnecessarily combative, took it to the next level on Tuesday, complaining about the criticism his department has absorbed by pounding on the podium on multiple occasions and quoting from profanity-laden messages directed to elected officials who supported law enforcement’s desire to take a deliberate approach to the investigation of the shooting.
MSNBC quickly cut away from the press conference once Normand began reading the comments, which contained a variety of words not appropriate for broadcast.
Later in the press conference, when Normand finally stepped down from his soapbox and addressed the case, he said that Gasser became irritated when McKnight cut Gasser off in traffic. Gasser then pursued McKnight. McKnight eventually parked and went to Gasser’s car. At that point, Gasser fired three shots.
Gasser, according to Normand, became fearful of McKnight based on things McKnight said to Gasser.
Normand explained that the decision to arrest Gasser for manslaughter came after the authorities located multiple key witnesses. As to the witness who initially claimed that Gasser got out of his car and stood over McKnight before shooting him a final time, Normand said that the witness told three different stories in the course of an hour.
“Shame on that individual,” Normand said.
Normand then said the comments started the process down a path “that we collectively should be ashamed of.”
Normand perhaps should be ashamed of himself for being so thin-skinned about the situation. When a white man shoots a black man and the shooter initially goes free without explanation, there will definitely be a reaction from members of the public. But a sheriff should aspire to be above the fray, not to roll around in the middle of it.
The reaction from Normand suggests that neither he nor his department are fit to run the investigation or handle the case. Hopefully, the matter eventually will be pursued and prosecuted by responsible adults who realize that a certain amount of inaccurate and ill-informed scrutiny goes with the territory.
Without the involvement of professionals who are committed to doing the right thing without reacting to the noise, it becomes impossible for true and complete justice to be done. And that’s all anyone should want in the case of the death of Joe McKnight: True and complete justice.