Sheriff Normand blasts critics over his handling of McKnight shooting; clergy weighs in

Sheriff Normand blasts critics over his handling of McKnight shooting; clergy weighs in

JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Before getting into the minutiae of why Ronald Gasser was arrested and booked with manslaughter in the death of former NFL player Joe McKnight last week after a road rage incident, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand had other things to get off his chest before the news media and the listening public.

"This isn't about race," said the sheriff. "Not a single witness said up to this day that there was one single racial slur uttered up to this day."

He did not restrain his words as he slammed those in the public who questioned his department's motives in not arresting Gasser right away after he admitted to shooting McKnight in a suburban area just outside the New Orleans city limits.

And Sheriff Normand took up for a handful of African-American elected officials, along with some religious leaders who he said did not rush to judgment during the days that Gasser did not face arrest.

"We begin to criticize people for just asking for pause, let the process take its course, but no that wasn't enough, we had to make demands, we want justice now and if we don't get it now and if we don't get it our way we're going to start saying things and doing things until we get it our way," Normand said as he pounded on the podium.

"It's not about the right thing. It's not about justice, and it's not about the process, it's about what we want and what we want now and we don't care who we disparage in the process," he continued passionately.

At one point Normand uttered raw words from text messages, even using the N-word and other derogatory phrases he said were written to leaders who gave the process time to work.

"I thank you for being the credible leaders that you are and I know in our day of reckoning you will be recognized for standing up and doing the right thing I know that," Normand said, as he choked up before the news cameras.

Soon after a coalition of black ministers addressed the news media at a nearby church.

"We stand here today with a legitimate discontent with the way that this situation was handled concerning the man who killed an unarmed man," said Dr. Joseph Hampton, President of the Westside Missionary Baptist Association.

They sounded a different tone.

"We are not here to celebrate but to be emphatic in our call for justice, amen. We demand that Mr. Gasser be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," said Dr. Hampton.

But the ministers would not comment specifically on what Sheriff Normand had to say at his press conference.

"We are a praying people and inclusive in our prayer is the sheriff, as well," said Hampton.

Hampton said Gasser should have been arrested right away given that he had been involved in a documented violent road rage incident 10 years ago at the same location.

Former Criminal Court Judge and current New Orleans NAACP Chapter President Morris Reed thinks Gasser is getting off easy, so far.

"I think it should be second degree murder just based upon tradition and precedent here in this parish," said Reed.

The district attorney could seek to upgrade the charges.

Reed defended those who protested Gasser's lack of arrest.

"The constitution allows people to protest and demonstrate when they are dissatisfied with the manner in which government is proceeding.  He's a governmental official and he's going to be subject to criticism," said Reed.

Bishop J.D. Wiley, who was among a small group of ministers to meet with Sheriff Normand last week said on behalf of the group, that, "We'd like to thank the community for being patient with the investigation process.  We'd also like to thank Sheriff Newell Normand for meeting with us and responding with swift action.  Mr. Gasser has been charged with one count of manslaughter and we as a community should remain vigilant throughout the ongoing criminal process."

We continue in prayer for the McKnight family, Mr. Gasser and the community as we heal following this tragic occurrence. We look forward to working with parish and city officials, the NAACP and other groups that share our concerns for a safe Greater New Orleans."

Religious leaders plan to join McKnight's family Wednesday for a vigil and community prayer service at the intersection where the shooting happened.

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