MIAMI (Reuters) - George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, said on Wednesday he did not pursue the Florida teenager on the night he was fatally shot.
Zimmerman, speaking in his first media interview since the February 26 killing of Martin, also apologized for a second time to the teen's parents and said he was unaware of Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law before the incident.
Asked to explain his statement to a 911 dispatcher that he was following Martin, Zimmerman said, "I didn't mean that I was actually pursuing him."
"I meant that I was going in the same direction as him, to keep an eye on him so that I could tell the police where he was going," he told Fox News host Sean Hannity.
The issue of whether Zimmerman pursued Martin will likely be at the center of his claim that he acted in self-defense.
Zimmerman, a 28-year-old who is white and Hispanic, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin, who was 17 and black.
Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in self-defense after the unarmed youth attacked him and repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk during a confrontation in a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford.
The encounter began when Zimmerman called police to report what he called "a real suspicious guy" walking through his neighborhood and then got out of his car and followed Martin, against the advice of a police operator.
In an affidavit submitted in court, two investigators assigned to the case by a Florida special prosecutor reported that Zimmerman "disregarded the police dispatcher" who instructed him not to follow Martin.
Zimmerman said after he got out of his car he never went further than 100 feet from it. He said he wanted to find out his location to pass along a more accurate address to police.
"I hadn't given them a correct address," he said.
Martin's killing drew national attention after police and prosecutors originally declined to arrest and charge Zimmerman, citing the "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law and his claim that he used deadly force because he believed his life was being threatened.
Asked if he had a message for Martin's parents, Zimmerman said he was praying for them every day.
"I am sorry that they buried their child. I can't imagine what it must feel like," he said.
In April, he also apologized to the parents during a court appearance.
"I do wish there was something, anything, I could have done that wouldn't have put me in the position where I had to take his life," he added.
"I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, it polarized and divided America," Zimmerman said.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Additional reporting by Lily Kuo in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)