Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Joe McKnight has been shot to death following an argument at an intersection with another motorist.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said the incident involving McKnight happened about 2:43 p.m. Thursday in Terrytown, a suburb of New Orleans.
The 28-year-old McKnight was standing outside his car when he was shot by Ronald Gasser, 54, 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.
McKnight was signed to Saskatchewan’s practice roster on Sept. 26, and he ran for 150 yards in his first CFL start on Oct. 15 as the Roughriders beat Toronto 29-11.
“We are shocked to hear the news of Joe’s sudden passing,” Roughriders general manager and head coach Chris Jones said in a statement. “We send our deepest sympathies to Joe’s family, friends, and all those impacted by this tragedy.”
McKnight finished the 2016 season with 228 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards over five games with Edmonton and Saskatchewan.
“We are saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Joe McKnight,” said Riders president and CEO Craig Reynolds in a release. “Losing a member of our Rider family this way is an unthinkable occurrence. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s family, teammates and coaches.”
He is the second CFL player to be shot to death this year after Stampeders defensive back Mylan Hicks was killed outside a Calgary nightclub in September.
“On behalf of our board of governors and the entire CFL family, I’d like to convey my deepest sympathies to all those close to Joe McKnight, especially his loved ones and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ organization at this difficult time,” CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said in a statement.
Former USC back also played in NFL
McKnight, who played for the NFL’s New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs before moving to the CFL, is also 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.
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.
“We will release additional details when we get through with the interviews,” Normand said.
Normand said Gasser, whose hometown was not immediately released, stayed at the scene and relinquished his weapon to responding officers.
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 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.
“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.