by: Catherine Bilkey Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A Mecklenburg County jury acquitted a Charlotte man of murder charges.
Kenan Gay was found not guilty just before noon.
He had been accused of pushing a man into the path of an oncoming car outside Ed's Tavern in Dilworth in 2012.
Prosecutors said Gay was angry that Rob Kingston was making unwanted advances toward Gay's girlfriend.
Gay's attorneys had argued that Gay was only trying to protect his girlfriend and that Kingston stumbled into the road well after Gay stopped pushing him out the front door of the tavern.
After the verdict Gay's family burst into tears and began hugging one another. Kingston'sstood stunned before leaving the courtroom.
IMAGES: Kenan Gay, wife walk from courthouse after not guilty verdict
Outside the courthouse Gay refused to respond to repeated questions about the case.
Gay's father, however, said the entire family was exhausted by the ordeal.
"We're obviously thankful that the jury found Kenan not guilty. There are no winners in this case," said Kenan Gay's father Doug. (Doug Gay's full statement is posted below).
WATCH: Doug Gay's raw interview here
That response was echoed by attorneys on both sides and the judge, all of whom called Kingston's death tragic.
Defense attorney David Rudolf said his client had no malicious intent to harm Kingston.
"I think what it came down to is the fact that this all happened in six seconds," Rudolf said. "I don't think any one of us can say what we would have done if we had seen what Kenan Gay saw happening to one of our loved ones at that moment in time."
The Kingston's declined comment after the verdict.
Prosecutors who talked to them said they're struggling to understand the jury's decision.
"It's not the verdict they wanted," said Assistant District Attorney Anna Greene. “They are having a hard time dealing with it."
Gay's attorney said he uttered "Thank God" after hearing the verdict read in court.
Asked what he said in response to Gay, David Rudolf said, “I told him you have your life back."
Read past coverage:
- Gay gives tearful testimony; Jury brought to Ed's Tavern
- Ex-football player accused of murder takes stand in own defense
- Judge does not dismiss murder charge in Kenan Gay trial
- Defense says man’s death outside Dilworth bar was accident, not murder
- Former UNC football player charged with murder after deadly bar fight
- Trial to start for former football player accused of murder after bar fight
- Jury hears opening statements in bar fight murder trial
- Defense questions witness’ credibility in bar fight murder trial
- Bouncer testifies in bar fight murder trial Tuesday
Kenan Gay acquitted of all charges in Dilworth bar murder trial
POLICE: 18-year-old found shot, killed near Charlotte elementary school
Man fends off would-be carjacker at Wesley Chapel shopping center
The Latest: New Zealand leader condemns attack in London
Gorsuch navigates full day of testimony as Senate battle percolates