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NAJEE’S NOTES: Former USC player killed in New Orleans

Joe McKnight, the former USC running back and NFL player, was shot and killed during a road rage dispute last week in his hometown of New Orleans.

Ronald Gasser, 54, was initially questioned after the shooting Dec. 1 but was released without being charged, drawing heated criticism from protesters who said race played a role in the incident and investigation.

Gasser, who is white, was arrested Dec. 5 and jailed on a manslaughter charge. McKnight, who was unarmed when he was killed, is the latest African-American who has died violently at the hands of an armed white man who is using the stand your ground defense.

Needless to say, the murder of McKnight has sent shockwaves across the nation and especially among McKnight’s former USC teammates and coaches. Reggie Bush, the former USC Heisman Trophy winner, even wore special cleats Dec. 4 in memory of McKnight.

This writer received several messages and calls from members of the Trojan family. One of the most emotional calls I received was from Aaron Emanuel, a former Trojan running back, who was outraged and demanded justice noting that McKnight wasn’t just a football player, he was a role model and hero in his community.

I was so moved I began to look at flights out of L.A. to New Orleans to help the McKnight family. Fortunately, with the arrest of Gasser, I was saved a trip. But more than likely, I do plan on going to New Orleans to monitor the trial.

McKnight was part of our Trojan family. He can’t fight for his justice. I believe we have an obligation to fight for him. Rest in peace, Joe McKnight.

Southern justice continues: Michael Slager, who was on trial for shooting and killing Walter Scott, a black motorist, escaped justice this week. A jury deadlocked Dec. 5 in the case of the former South Carolina police officer charged with murder after he was recorded on video last year firing a barrage of bullets at the back of Walter Scott, a fleeing driver, in one of the most high-profile shootings the nation has observed in recent years.

“We as the jury regret to inform the court that despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to come to a unanimous decision,” the jury wrote in a note that Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman read aloud in the courtroom.

In my opinion, the jury of 11 white people and one black man, should have been able to reach a verdict. Scott was clearly seen on videotape running away from Slager and it was impossible for Scott to pose any threat of danger to Slager. This is just latest example of southern justice. From the murder of Trayvon Martin to Walter Scott, racism and a double standard of justice against blacks continues. The district attorney has announced that Slager will be retried. But justice delayed is justice denied.

An ordinance to “ban the box” asking about job applicants’ criminal histories on application forms was approved by the Los Angeles City Council last week. It applies to L.A. businesses with 10 or more employees, as well as city contractors, and it could impact hundreds of thousands of people in L.A., according to Councilman Curren Price.

Price has been at the forefront in pushing for this historic effort. Businesses can still ask about an applicant’s criminal history — but not until a conditional job offer is made, allowing the prospective employee to explain what happened, according to Price.

“We think it’s important because it would help expand the potential workforce and give a second chance for those that have served their time,” Price said. “It’s unfair that they’ve served their time, and then they continue to be punished by not being able to find employment.”

Other cities and businesses have already adopted similar policies, Price noted, including large companies like Uber and Target. Price said that it has been suggested that 50 percent of those who check the box are automatically eliminated from consideration. There has been some resistance from businesses, Price said, but he added that he believes it’s because they aren’t aware how the program is going to work.

“We want to work closely with the business community,” Price said. “There’s going to be a six-month grace period so that everyone understands what’s expected and how this new process is going to work. We want to be fair, but we want to do something that’s going to be effective as well.”

The ordinance will come back to the council in a week for another consideration due to the vote not being unanimous, but Price said that is considered a formality. They believe the mayor will sign it and Price hopes that it will become law by the beginning of the new year.

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