Fuming and spewing obscenities, ex-Jets running back Joe McKnight threatened to pummel a motorist before he was shot dead on a Louisiana road, defense lawyers said Friday.
The explosive claim came in opening arguments at the trial of 54-year-old Ronald Gasser, who is charged with second-degree murder in the road-rage slaying of the former NFL pro.
Defense lawyer Matthew Goetz argued that Gasser opened fire in self-defense as the hulking McKnight rushed his car.
“McKnight exited his vehicle and yelled ‘F--k you, get out of your car motherf---er,’” Goetz told the jurors, according to WDSU-TV. “‘I’m going to f--k you up.’”
“Gasser is not a murderer,” the defense lawyer added. “Joe McKnight was the aggressor and attacked my client in his car.”
Prosecutors said Gasser told police that McKnight lunged into the passenger window of the suspect’s car when it was stopped at a traffic light on Dec. 1, 2016.
Former NFL player Joe McKnight
Former NFL player Joe McKnight
Running Back Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets follows the action against the Miami Dolphins when the Miami Dolphins host the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.Jets beat the Dolphins, 23-20, in Overtime.
(Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe McKnight (22) scores a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the game at Sun Life Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Dolphins 34-15.
(Brad Barr/USA TODAY Sports)
Runningback Joe McKnight #4 of the USC Trojans carries the ball against the UCLA Bruins during the college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 1, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. The Trojans defeated the Bruins 24-7.
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
New York Jets Tim Tebow hands the ball off to Joe McKnight in the first quarter during their NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 9, 2012.
USC's Joe McKnight (4), celebrates his second quarter touchdown with teammate Damian Williams against Notre Dame in Los Angeles November 29, 2008.
Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets sits dejected after being defeated 24 to 19 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Head Coach Pete Carroll of the USC Trojans congratulates his player Joe McKnight #4 after McKnight scored a touchdown in the third quarter during the Rose Bowl presented by Citi against the Illinois Fighting Illini at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2008 in Pasadena, California.
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
New York Jets running back Joe McKnight (25) leaves the field after an injury during the second half of their NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland, December 4, 2011.
University of Southern California tailback Joe McKnight (4) scores a two-point conversion as David Ausberry (9) watches as McKnight is hit by Ohio State University defender Devon Torrence (R) during the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game in Columbus, Ohio, September 12, 2009.
The USC Trojans' Joe McKnight (2nd L) runs between Penn State Nittany Lions' Lydell Sargeant (L), Anthony Scirrotto (2nd R) and Navorro Bowman (R) during the second quarter at the 95th Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California, January 1, 2009.
University of Southern California running back Joe McKnight scores a touchdown on a long run against Notre Dame in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game in South Bend, Indiana, October 20, 2007.
Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets looks on against the San Diego Chargers at MetLife Stadium on December 23, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Chragers defeated the Jets 27-17.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
USC's Joe McKnight walks off the field as fans celebrate the Oregon Ducks win in Eugene, Oregon Saturday.
(Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Running Back Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets watches the action against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 3, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Jets beat the bills, 38-14.
(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
Joe McKnight of USC reacts to returning a punt for 45 yards against the Arizona Wildcats at Memorial Coliseum.
(Photo by Charles Baus /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets returns a kick during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York.
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Running back Joe McKnight #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Junior Hemmingway #88 after scoring a third-quarter touchdown against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
New York Jets running back Joe McKnight avoids a tackle from the Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) during the second quarter of their NFL preseason football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 30, 2012.
Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets and Jeremy Kerley #11 walk to the field before the start of the Jets game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 4, 2011 in Landover, Maryland.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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But they insisted that the physical evidence told a different story, indicating that McKnight made no such aggressive move.
“His version of events don’t match the physical evidence,” said prosecutor Seth Shute, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
The shooting followed a dispute that erupted while the motorists were traveling from New Orleans into neighboring Jefferson Parish.
One of the drivers is believed to have cut the other off, sparking a frenzied cat-and-mouse chase that lasted for several blocks. McKnight pulled beside Gasser’s car at a traffic light and got out of his gray Audi Q7 SUV to confront the man.
Authorities say Gasser fired three rounds from inside his blue Infiniti G37, striking McKnight in the chest, shoulder and hand.
The suspect, who owns a telecommunications business, later admitted to officers that he opened fire on McKnight, authorities said.
Still, Gasser was released from police custody without charges the day after the shooting — sparking outrage across the country.
His freedom was short-lived.
Gasser was arrested on manslaughter charges five days later. He was indicted on the second-degree murder charge in early February.
McKnight, who spent three seasons with Gang Green and one with the Kansas City Chiefs, played in the Canadian Football League in 2006. But he was reportedly eyeing a return to the NFL.
McKnight's slaying came eight months after a similar road-rage incident left ex-New Orleans Saints star Will Smith dead and his wife wounded in the streets of the Big Easy.
The suspect — Cardell Hayes, 29 — was sentenced to 25 years behind bars after a jury convicted him of manslaughter in December 2016.