December 6, 2016 / 3:38 PM / 7 months ago

Sheriff charges manslaughter in Louisiana death of ex-NFL player

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Sep 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe McKnight (22) scores a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the game at Sun Life Stadium. Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - A man suspected of fatally shooting former National Football League player Joe McKnight in a road rage incident near New Orleans has been arrested and charged with manslaughter, a Louisiana sheriff said on Tuesday.

Ronald Gasser, 54, was charged with one count of manslaughter, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said at a news conference during which he criticized both men for "bad driving behavior and bad spoken words."

The investigation was continuing, Normand said, leaving open the possibility of a charge such as murder or a lighter one depending on evidence.

A sheriff's office spokesman, Glen Boyd, said in an email that he did not know if Gasser had an attorney. Gasser's bond was set at $500,000, according to jail records.

Gasser was initially taken into custody after the shooting on Thursday afternoon but released on Friday without charge, angering some members of the community, while the sheriff's office continued its investigation.

McKnight, 28, was pronounced dead at a traffic intersection in Terrytown, after suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

McKnight was a running back for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs from 2010 through 2014. He had played for the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League this year.

The investigation was delayed because witnesses were reluctant to come forward, Normand said, adding that social media had been used to spread false information and intimidate people.

Investigators interviewed Gasser for more than 10 hours, Normand said. The sheriff's office conducted more than 160 other interviews and found a key witness on Saturday, he said.

Leading up to the shooting, Gasser and McKnight shouted at each other and drove their vehicles erratically for several blocks before stopping at an intersection, Normand said.

McKnight then got out of his car and the two continued arguing until Gasser pulled a gun and shot McKnight three times, the sheriff said.

"What we had were two adult males engaged in unacceptable behavior that did not understand how to deal with conflict resolution," Normand said.

Neither man used a racial slur, he said, citing witness accounts. "This wasn't about race." Gasser is white, while McKnight was black.

Another former NFL player, Will Smith, was shot dead in New Orleans near the city's famed French Quarter this year. Police have said that another man, Cardell Hayes, fatally shot Smith after a car crash and argument. Jury selection in Hayes' murder trial began on Monday.

Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Richard Chang

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