Why Joe McKnight’s shooter may get off scot-free

Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Joe McKnight was shot to death in broad daylight on a New Orleans street with plenty of witnesses. According to police, McKnight was unarmed and the accounts of the shooting are horrific.

A witness, who declined to give her name, said she was leaving a store in the area when she saw a man at the intersection yelling at another man, who was trying to apologize. The man who was yelling shot the other man more than once, she said.

She said the shooter shot the man, stood over him and said “I told you don’t you f— with me.” Then he fired again, she said.

Officials have already said that a 54-year-old white male named Ronald Gasser shot McKnight. He remained at the scene, turned his gun over to police and was taken into custody. But sometime overnight he was released from jail without charge, sparking outrage.

Louisiana is one of 13 U.S. states with a so-called “stand your ground law” which states in part:

“A homicide is justifiable . . . [w]hen committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger,” the law states. “A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”

The most widely known stand your ground case took place in Florida where an unarmed black teenager named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a “neighborhood watch captain” who claimed he was acting in self-defence. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder.

There are questions, however, about whether stand-your-ground laws are impacted by race. A recent study by Washington University in St. Louis of over 200 cases in Florida revealed “stand-your-ground legislation in Florida has a quantifiable racial bias that reveals a leniency in convictions if the victim is nonwhite.”

Officials in New Orleans say the investigation into McKnight’s death is continuing.

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