Community prayer service held for Joe McKnight's family

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A large gathering of people, including religious leaders and everyday citizens from around the New Orleans area, gathered Wednesday evening for a community prayer service to honor the memory of former NFL player Joe McKnight and to pray for his family.

McKnight was killed last week during a road rage incident in Jefferson Parish.

The prayer event happened at Holmes Boulevard and Berhman Highway, the very intersection where McKnight was shot.

Church pastors prayed one by one.

"Give us the peace and understanding," a religious leader said.

And the crowd prayed in unison.

"And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," they said.

Police said 54-year-old Ronald Gasser admitted shooting McKnight.

"'I am so glad to be a part of this group to see the unity and the spirit that is brought here tonight. Not of hatred, not of bitterness, but of love," said Coach J.T. Curtis of John Curtis Christian School, who coached McKnight before he headed to college.

"We know this: Joe is looking down tonight, yeah he is, and he's saying how proud he is," said Curtis.

"It was a close-knit family and it's, it's just going to have to take it one step at a time, you know?" said Elmo Lee Jr., who was McKnight's stepdad.

Lee helped to raise McKnight along with McKnight's mother.

"From day one that was what he wanted to do, accomplish his dream playing football. But everybody, they know Joe because of John Curtis and NFL, but before all that he was just a fun-loving kid coming up. He wasn't no disrespectful kid," Lee said.

"He was a real good guy, he loved sports, his family, his son. He didn't deserve that," said Johnny Thiel, who said McKnight was like a brother to him.

On the minds of many was Gasser's arrest for manslaughter.

"I mean, as long as they got a charge on him right now and pray to God that on the continuing of the investigation that the charges get upgraded," said Lee.

"I think that we have to trust our system. I think we have to trust that God is going to bring justice to this community and that we have to be patient and let things play themselves out," Curtis said.

"I want justice, I want more, it's not good enough," said Thiel.

"As much as the McKnight family is hurting today, there are many others in our community that are hurting the same way because of the loss of life.," Coach Curtis said.

And so the focus was on unity.

"And enter into each spirit and give us a calm and peace, yes Lord. Dear Lord help us to always stand for what is right," Coach Curtis uttered in prayer.

"Thank you for your peace," a preacher said.

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