Will Smith vs Joe McKnight: similar shootings, very different police reactions

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Crime scene in Terrytown where former NFL player Joe McKnight was shot and killed

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – WGNO legal analyst Craig Mordock sees many similarities between the shooting deaths of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith and former John Curtis standout and NFL player Joe McKnight.

Both shooting victims were involved in apparent road rage incidents shortly before their deaths, and both accused shooters remained at the scene until police arrived.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Cardell Hayes, Smith’s accused killer, was taken into custody by the New Orleans Police Department and awaits trial for the shooting. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office released Ronald Gasser, McKnight’s accused shooter, with no charges hours after the incident.

“The outlier is not Cardell Hayes being arrested,” Mordock said. “The outlier is Gasser not being arrested. Gasser went free. That was out of the ordinary.”

Like Hayes, Gasser stayed on the scene of the McKnight shooting to hand over his firearm directly to the responding police officers.

Mordock said the actions of both accused killers after their respective shootings meant that each investigation started off in an abnormal way.

“That’s not what usually happens in murder cases,” he said. “The perp usually flees.”

In a standard murder investigation, if an officer didn’t personally witness a shooting and if the accused shooter left the scene, it would ordinarily take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for police to make an arrest, Mordock said.

“There’s a lot of evidence that takes some time to develop,” he said. “I know they did the autopsy the next morning, but toxicology results take about six to eight weeks to come back. Looking at the blood evidence and those things takes some time.”

The fact that Gasser stayed at the scene and went to police headquarters sped up the process and ultimately lead to the question as to why he was then released.

“I think if you keep in mind a standard murder investigation, there may not have been an arrest right away,” he said. “I think that is why there is this outrage at Gasser being released.”

As to any other factors that could have influenced the decision to arrest Hayes and release Gasser, Mordock thinks it may simply be too early in the investigation for those questions to be answered.

“The problem is we just don’t know enough of the facts right now,” he said. “We know about 15 percent of the facts right now.”