Former USC star Joe McKnight shot to death in streets of Louisiana

Former USC star Joe McKnight shot to death in streets of Louisiana
Joe McKnight rushed for more than 2,200 yards in his USC career. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Former USC running back Joe McKnight was shot and killed in Terrytown, La., outside New Orleans, on Thursday afternoon, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.

The killing is being investigated as a possible road rage incident, said sheriff's spokesman Col. John Fortunato. Fortunato. Officials identified the suspected gunman as Ronald Gasser, 54, who remained on the scene and was being questioned by homicide detectives.


Authorities say Gasser was released from custody overnight. Fortunato told media outlets that Gasser has not been charged and the shooting is still under investigation.

According to a report by, a witness in Terrytown saw two men in an argument near an intersection. One man was yelling at a second man, McKnight, who was trying to apologize. The witness said the man who had been yelling shot the second man multiple times, then paused and yelled a final epithet before firing on the man again.

Fortunato said the incident took place at 2:43 p.m.

McKnight, 28, committed to USC under then-coach Pete Carroll from River Ridge, La., as the next in the line of USC playmakers like Reggie Bush. He played at USC for three seasons before turning professional. McKnight amassed 2,755 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and receiving and another two touchdowns as a returner.

He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft by the New York Jets, where he spent three up-and-down seasons before moving to the Kansas City Chiefs and then the Miami Dolphins in 2013. A torn Achilles’ tendon in 2014 ended his NFL career. In 2016, he played for the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.

McKnight is the second NFL player this year to die as a result of a possible road rage incident. Saints player Will Smith was killed in April. 

McKnight's relationship with USC was somewhat strained after he was not allowed to play in the final game of his junior season, in 2009, while USC investigated him for allegedly receiving improper benefits. He would leave USC soon afterward.

USC's current and former players and coaches have reacted with notes of shock and sadness on social media.

USC Coach Clay Helton posted, "Saddens me to hear the news about Joe McKnight. Our prayers go out to the McKnight family."

Brian Cushing, one of McKnight's USC teammates, wrote, in part, "I'm absolutely crushed to hear the news today about you being gone. I'll never forget what you accomplished and how far you came as a player and a person."

Bush said on Twitter, "this one hurts bad."



8:25 a.m., Dec. 2: This article was updated with the suspected shooter's release without being charged.

This article was originally published at 3:35 p.m., Dec. 1