Ex-NFL Player Shot, Killed in Highway Shooting: Sheriff | NECN
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Ex-NFL Player Shot, Killed in Highway Shooting: Sheriff

Joe McKnight, a running back for the Jets from 2010 to 2012, was shot after an argument

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    Police say former New York Jets player Joe McKnight was killed in an apparent road rage shooting on a highway outside New Orleans Thursday afternoon. Michael George reports. (Published Friday, Dec. 2, 2016)

    A former New York Jets player was killed in an apparent road rage shooting on a highway outside New Orleans Thursday afternoon, officials said.

    Joe McKnight, a 28-year-old running back who played for the Jets from 2010 to 2012, was shot after an argument with another motorist in the suburb of Terrytown, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office confirmed.

    McKnight was standing outside his car when he was shot by Ronald Gasser, 54, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said during a news conference at the scene of the shooting.

    "The only thing we know right now, everything else is conjecture, is that Mr. Gasser did in fact shoot Mr. McKnight," Normand said.

    A witness told The Times-Picayune newspaper she saw a man yelling at another man near the intersection of Beherman Highway and Holmes Boulevard. As the other man tried to apologize, the man who was yelling shot him more than once, she said. 

    Paramedics attempted to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, NBC affiliate WDSU-TV reports

    Family, Witnesses Recount Road Rage Shooting of Joe McKnightFamily, Witnesses Recount Road Rage Shooting of Joe McKnightWitnesses recount the road rage incident that killed ex-NFL player Joe McKnight outside New Orleans early Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Published Friday, Dec. 2, 2016)

    Norman said investigators have Gasser in custody and he's being questioned, along with a number of witnesses. Col. John Fortunato, a sheriff's office spokesman, said they anticipate charging Gasser, but with what has not yet been determined.

    The sheriff said he did not know where the incident started, but noted that McKnight was standing outside his vehicle when he was shot. He did not release any details on the number of times McKnight was shot, saying the coroner's office would do so.

    Normand said no gun was found outside either vehicle, but they had not searched the cars and won't do so until a search warrant has been obtained.

    McKnight is the second former NFL player this year to die in the New Orleans area as a result of a possible road-rage incident. Former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith was killed in April in a shooting that was sparked over a traffic altercation.

    McKnight was considered the No. 1 running back recruit in the country when he came out of John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana in 2006 and signed with the University of Southern California, where he played under Pete Carroll. With his running and catching skills, McKnight was often compared to do-it-all running back Reggie Bush, a USC star who was the No. 2 overall pick by New Orleans in the 2006 draft.

    Bush took to Twitter to offer his condolences: "RIP my brother Joe McKnight," he posted, "this one hurts bad."

    "For a life to be lost so senselessly is just beyond description," said JT Curtis, McKnight's high school coach, who's been head coach there for nearly five decades. "Right now it's pretty devastating."

    "He was just a good kid," the coach added.

    After a sometimes-spectacular college career in which he ran for 2,213 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 66 passes for 542 yards and two scores in three seasons, McKnight was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round in 2010.

    His NFL career got off to a shaky start, marked by his first rookie camp practice in which he dropped a few passes, had both calves cramp up and later vomited on the side of the field because of nerves and lack of conditioning. McKnight saw limited action as a rookie, but started the regular-season finale and rushed for 158 yards on 32 carries.

    McKnight assumed the role as the Jets' primary kick returner in 2011, and led the NFL with a 31.6 yard kickoff return average that season. That included a franchise-record 107-yarder in 2011 against Baltimore that also stands as the team's longest play.

    He was released by the Jets as part of their final cuts after training camp in 2013 and spent that season out of football. McKnight signed with Kansas City in January 2014 and had two touchdown catches in a game for the Chiefs early that season before tearing his Achilles tendon during a practice and missing the rest of the year.

    The Jets organization tweeted: "Rest in peace, Joe McKnight. Our thoughts and condolences are with his loved ones."

    Former Jets teammates were also tweeting about McKnight, expressing shock and grief. 

    "This hurt to my heart. I can't stop crying," said Antonio Cromartie. 

    "Just senseless violence... great teammate and sense of humor," Damien Woody said.