The Joe McKnight road rage murder has once again sent our country into a heated discussion about race, police and the value of an African-American life.
Finally, after dragging their feet on an arrest, the man who allegedly hunted and gunned down the former NFL and USC running back in cold blood was arrested on a felony manslaughter charge, Jefferson Parish (La.) Sheriff Newell Normand confirmed at a news conference on Tuesday.
Ronald Gasser, 54, was taken into custody on Monday with his bond set at $500,000. Gasser was questioned for more than 10 hours by investigators since Thursday's shooting that Normand described as a road rage incident that turned deadly.
While, every community should be elated that the killer was charged, the NAACP and McKnight’s good friend Robby Green feel that the charge of manslaughter is not enough and once again devalues the life of another African-American male.
"He should have been charged with a higher charge. Manslaughter is like a slap on the wrist or to pacify the community," said Gaylor Spiller, President of the West Jefferson Chapter of the NAACP.
"There are similar cases here in Jefferson Parish that show that second-degree murder would have been the best charge," said NAACP Attorney Michelle Charles.
Green appeared on MSNBC on Thursday morning and was asked by a correspondent if he feels that the manslaughter charges are sufficient, fair, or adequate at all.
“Honestly I know nothing about the law,” responded a solemn and still heartbroken Green, who was wearing a black baseball cap emblazoned with “Justice 4 Joe” on it. "But manslaughter ? ... I don’t think this is the case here. My friend was followed, chased down and murdered. I don’t think this case is a manslaughter case."
And neither do most logical people aside from the local Sheriff’s office. Sheriff Normand defended his officers handling of the case, saying they did a proper, diligent job unaffected by race.
He also said in his press conference, in response to those who don’t agree with his handling of the case, “tough.” He insisted that his investigation would not be influenced by outside demands.
The Sheriff’s reading of a bigoted and profanity-laced communication directed at the department was odd and unusual. His callous response to a good man’s death has only heightened racial tensions and given African-Americans further fire to fuel their growing concerns about racism, equality and the abuse of police power in this country.
Going forward, the NAACP wants open dialogue and a transparent flow of information from the sheriff's office.
"We will not be bullied by Sheriff Normand or any other elected official. We are not here to fight with you. We are here to work together," Spiller insisted.
The NAACP also wants to know if a traffic camera at the intersection caught any of the confrontation. The sheriff's office says there is no video that caught the actual shooting and the Shell gas station says its cameras are directed towards the pumps.
The sheriff's office confirms that it is now getting death threats on social media and is monitoring that situation.
Maybe you can infer that Gasser's a racist and McKnight being black made it easier for him to pull the trigger, but that’s speculation without knowing Gasser personally. It could have just been horrible timing on McKnight's part which led to freakishly unpredictable circumstances.
The way the case is being handled is where racial injustice comes into play. The way the narrative is always being shaped to somehow find a way to blame the Black victim or make people with legitimate beefs appear to be the bad guys in the tragedy. That method is a bit played out, insulting and sickening at this point.
“It’s tough to say if it was about race…,” Green said. “We all have to come together and live with each other in this world. This accident should focus on where it started, not where it ended. People are only worried about the ending of it all but how did this situation start?
I have no issues with law enforcement or the process and how long it takes. Yes we want answers...This guy was a wonderful man, a father, a friend, a son and a nephew to a lot of people. And when you met Joe for the first time you felt like you knew him forever. This man should be remembered for who he was as a person. This is very tough on us. We need everyone’s support.”
Racism or not, this will be a tough case for any defense attorney. McKnight has a legion of people and a conscious movement behind him who won’t let this latest American killing and the way justice is traditionally dispensed to a white offender at the cost of an innocent black life get swept under the rug.