In a press conference during which Sheriff Newell Normand came off on multiple occasions as frustrated and defensive, an eyebrow-raising comment was made suggesting that special steps should be taken to ensure that the investigation unfolds in a fair and proper manner.
Responding to questions from the media, Sheriff Normand addressed the decision to release Ronald Gasser, 54, from custody only hours after he shot and killed former NFL running back Joe McKnight.
“The easiest thing for me [to say] would have been, ‘Book him, Danno,'” Sheriff Normand said. “Right? But the fact of the matter is is that in trying to flesh out these details as it relates to all of this and not having that rush to judgment and doing this in a very deliberate and appropriate fashion, we chose not to do that.”
Next came a surprising disclosure from Sheriff Normand, who apparently was trying to short-circuit any suggestion that racial dynamics would protect Gasser.
“Of course, where that leads us at this point in time is that everybody wants to make this about race,” Sheriff Normand said. “This isn’t about race. And I’ll just throw this out folks so that everybody knows and there’s no hiding the ball. The gentleman that raised Joe McKnight used to work for this office.”
Separate comments from Sheriff Normand indicated that the shooter may not have been aware that the man who raised Joe McKnight previously was a deputy in Jefferson Parish. And that could be a problem for the investigation, because there’s a chance that no amount of effort to ensure a fair investigation will guarantee it.
Indeed, a conflict of interest exists, which could require the authorities to take steps aimed at ensuring the conflict doesn’t impact any recommendations made or otherwise undermine the case. It also arguably requires prosecutors or someone else to intervene now, ensuring that the investigation isn’t tainted, one way or the other, because of the relationship between the victim and his family.