In his first lengthy TV interview, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmermansaid Wednesday he wanted to apologize to Trayvon Martin's parents for fatally shooting their son but insisted he was not pursuing the teenager on the rainy night they confronted one another.
When asked in a nationally televised interview by Fox News host Sean Hannity what he would tell the teen's parents, he said "I'm sorry," and that he would be open to talking to them about what happened the night of the shooting.
"I can't imagine what it must feel like. And I pray for them daily," Zimmerman said. Later, he added: "I am sorry that this happened."
The teenager's father, Tracy Martin, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he rejected a comment Zimmerman made about the events of that night being part of "God's plan."
"We must worship a different God. There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son," Tracy Martin said.
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 death of the 17-year-old Martin, an African-American who was unarmed when he was killed in Sanford, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Orlando. The shooting sparked nationwide protests after Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother Hispanic, was not arrested for weeks after the shooting.
Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him and has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law. Zimmerman is free on $1 million bail.
The interview with Hannity was conducted at an undisclosed location in Seminole County, where Zimmermanmust remain under conditions of his release on bail. Zimmerman was accompanied by attorney Mark O'Mara, who remained mostly silent except to say his client would not comment on sex abuse allegations leveled by an unidentified female relative of Zimmerman's.
When asked to explain what he meant when he told a police dispatcher he was following Martin, Zimmermansaid he was trying to keep an eye on Martin to tell police. He said he was not following Martin but attempting to get a more precise address for the authorities.
Whether Zimmerman was the aggressor plays a major role in his self-defense claim.
"I hadn't given them a correct address. I was going to give them the actual address," he said. "I meant that I was going in the same direction as him. I didn't mean that I was actually pursuing him."
Zimmerman said shortly after he got out of his car, Martin was right next to him. Zimmerman said he looked down to try to find his cellphone and when he looked up, Martin punched him and broke his nose. Then, he said, Martin straddled him and started slamming his head down.
"He started bashing my head into the concrete sidewalk. I was disoriented," Zimmerman said, adding that it was at that point he began to fear for his life — another key element in his self-defense claim.
He said as the two were struggling, Martin said "you're going to die tonight." Zimmerman said he yelled out multiple times — shouts captured on emergency services calls by local residents — in hopes the authorities would locate them.
"I was yelling in hopes that they were in the vicinity and they would come and find me," he said. "As soon as he broke my nose, I started yelling for help."
Martin's parents have said they believe it was their son who was yelling for help.
Zimmerman also said racial profiling had nothing to do with the confrontation.
"I'm not a racist and I'm not a murderer," he said.