An emotional Kenan Gay told a jammed and silent courtroom Tuesday that he never intended to hurt Robert Kingston at Ed’s Tavern two years ago, and that he “lost it” when a police officer told him that Kingston had died after being hit by a passing car.
On the night of May 3, 2012, Gay rushed up on Kingston from behind after he saw the 30-year-old grab and try to kiss Gay’s girlfriend, Liz Wicker, court testimony has shown.
Gay testified that moments before the confrontation, he heard Kingston say “Watch this” to some friends before walking toward Wicker. When Kingston embraced Wicker, with whom he had been flirting on and off for about two hours, “That’s when I took off,” Gay said.
Within seconds, Kingston was lying in Park Road after being struck and killed by a passing car. Eyewitnesses have testified that Gay pushed Kingston, and then ran up the street after he was hit.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Gay said Tuesday that he did not want to hurt or fight Kingston, but “only to get him off” of Wicker, who is now his wife.
Using a sheriff’s deputy as courtroom prop, Gay said he pushed Kingston by the shoulders and back, their momentum carrying the pair out the open door of the Dilworth bar.
He said he let go of Kingston between two cars parked in front of the bar, then turned to face what he thought could be Kingston’s friends.
He heard a collision. Someone grabbed his arm. He said he then panicked and ran.
“Did you want to push Mr. Kingston into Park Road?” defense attorney David Rudolf asked Gay.
“No sir,” Gay replied.
“Did you want to hurt him in anyway?” his lawyer asked.
“No sir,” Gay replied.
Asked repeatedly by Rudolf if he felt anger or jealousy toward Kingston that night, Gay said he did not.
Gay’s two hours of testimony marked the emotional high point of the two-week trial. Gay has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Kingston’s death. If convicted he faces a punishment ranging from probation to 20 years in prison.
Speaking through tears for much of the morning before a standing-room-only crowd that included his own family and Kingston’s, Gay said he panicked after Kingston was struck, then ran from the bar, before returning 10 minutes later.
He said he asked the police officer who arrested him how Kingston was.
When told that Kingston was dead, “That’s when I lost it,” Gay testified.
Rudolf then showed video taken inside the police car in which the silhouette of Gay can been seen in the backseat. Later, in a clip that Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges kept the jury from seeing, Gay repeatedly recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Asked by Rudolf why he prayed, Gay said, “someone or something needed to be prayed for.”
“Were you praying for everybody involved?” Rudolf asked.
“Yes,” Gay replied.