Fuming and spewing obscenities, ex-Jets running back Joe McKnight threatened to pummel a motorist before he was shot dead on a Louisiana road, defense lawyers said Friday.
The explosive claim came in opening arguments at the trial of 54-year-old Ronald Gasser, who is charged with second-degree murder in the road-rage slaying of the former NFL pro.
Defense lawyer Matthew Goetz argued that Gasser opened fire in self-defense as the hulking McKnight rushed his car.
“McKnight exited his vehicle and yelled ‘F–k you, get out of your car motherf—er,’” Goetz told the jurors, according to WDSU-TV. “‘I’m going to f–k you up.’”
“Gasser is not a murderer,” the defense lawyer added. “Joe McKnight was the aggressor and attacked my client in his car.”
Prosecutors said Gasser told police that McKnight lunged into the passenger window of the suspect’s car when it was stopped at a traffic light on Dec. 1, 2016.
Ronald Gasser was arrested on manslaughter charges on Dec. 6, 2016.
(Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office)
But they insisted that the physical evidence told a different story, indicating that McKnight made no such aggressive move.
“His version of events don’t match the physical evidence,” said prosecutor Seth Shute, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
The shooting followed a dispute that erupted while the motorists were traveling from New Orleans into neighboring Jefferson Parish.
One of the drivers is believed to have cut the other off, sparking a frenzied cat-and-mouse chase that lasted for several blocks. McKnight pulled beside Gasser’s car at a traffic light and got out of his gray Audi Q7 SUV to confront the man.
Authorities say Gasser fired three rounds from inside his blue Infiniti G37, striking McKnight in the chest, shoulder and hand.
The suspect, who owns a telecommunications business, later admitted to officers that he opened fire on McKnight, authorities said.
Still, Gasser was released from police custody without charges the day after the shooting — sparking outrage across the country.
His freedom was short-lived.
Sports Stars Gone Too Soon
Gasser was arrested on manslaughter charges five days later. He was indicted on the second-degree murder charge in early February.
McKnight, who spent three seasons with Gang Green and one with the Kansas City Chiefs, played in the Canadian Football League in 2006. But he was reportedly eyeing a return to the NFL.
McKnight’s slaying came eight months after a similar road-rage incident left ex-New Orleans Saints star Will Smith dead and his wife wounded in the streets of the Big Easy.
The suspect — Cardell Hayes, 29 — was sentenced to 25 years behind bars after a jury convicted him of manslaughter in December 2016.