Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said deputies received a 911 call at approximately 2:43 p.m. CST about a shooting in the New Orleans suburb of Terrytown. McKnight, suffering from gunshot wounds, was lying on the ground near his car next to an intersection when deputies arrived. CPR was performed on McKnight before he was pronounced dead at the scene, Normand said.
Ronald Gasser, 54, was at the scene and told deputies he shot McKnight, Normand said. Gasser was not arrested, but he was taken into custody for questioning. Gasser was released overnight and not formally charged, Normand said during a news conference Friday.
McKnight did not have a gun on his body or in his car at the time of his death, Normand said.
Normand said Gasser is cooperating with his office's ongoing investigation. He dismissed reports that Gasser stood over McKnight when he shot him. He said the gunshot wounds McKnight suffered were consistent with Gasser sitting in his car while shooting at McKnight, who was outside of his car. Normand also dismissed reports that McKnight was apologizing at the time of the shooting.
"The issue at the end of the day is we will do a very deliberate and thorough investigation," said Newell, who added his office is still speaking to witnesses about the shooting.
The autopsy performed on McKnight on Friday morning revealed he suffered three gunshot wounds, a Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office spokesman said. Bullets pierced his left hand, right shoulder, one of his lungs, his liver and one of his kidneys, the spokesman said.
A former top overall prospect in his high school class, McKnight was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft after spending his collegiate career at USC. He led the NFL in yards per kickoff return (31.6) in his second season.
McKnight spent three seasons in New York then one final one in Kansas City in 2014 before moving on to the Canadian Football League.
"Joe McKnight was a loving father and a genuine, kind-hearted person," the Jets said in a statement. "It is sad when life is taken in what appears to be such a senseless act of violence. Joe, you will be missed."
Many NFL players, including McKnight's former teammates, reacted to the tragedy on social media: