A former University of Oklahoma fraternity member caught on video leading a racist chant said Wednesday he's deeply sorry for his role in the incident and upset and embarrassed that he failed to stop it.
Flanked by several black Oklahoma City community leaders, including pastors and civil rights activists, Levi Pettit publicly apologized following a meeting he had with civic leaders at a Baptist Church on the city's predominantly black northeast side.
"Some have wondered why I hadn't spoken out publicly. The truth is I have had a mix of pain, shame, sorrow and fear over the consequences of my actions," said Pettit, whose voice quivered slightly as he spoke. "I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I first came to apologize to those most directly impacted."
Pettit and several other members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the university were caught on video engaging in the chant that referenced lynching and used a racial slur to describe how African-Americans would never become members.
Pettit answered a few questions from reporters but declined to say who taught him the chant or where he learned it.
"The truth is what was said in that chant is disgusting ... and after meeting with these people I've learned these words should never be repeated," Pettit said.
State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, who coordinated Wednesday's meeting after Pettit reached out to her, said she believes Pettit's apology is genuine and she has forgiven him.
"I admire his courage of reaching out to me and saying: `I want to meet with you face to face and apologize to you directly,"' said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. "I believe he is sincere."
Pettit's parents, who live in the Dallas area, issued an apology on his behalf two weeks ago after the video's release caused an uproar on the university's campus in Norman, which is located about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City. A second student from the Dallas area, Parker Rice, also issued a statement apologizing for his role in the chant.
OU President David Boren severed ties with the fraternity, ordered its members to vacate the fraternity house and expelled two students for leading the chant. The university also launched an investigation into the role other fraternity members may have had in the chant, and Boren says further disciplinary action is possible.
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The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity also disbanded its OU chapter and announced it is taking steps to become more inclusive, including requiring all of its members nationwide to go through diversity training and setting up a confidential hotline for people to report inappropriate behavior.
Boren also planned to meet later Wednesday with student leaders of the university's fraternity and sorority system to discuss race relations and the reaction of students to the incident.
NBC 5 has a crew in Oklahoma City and will have complete coverage on this event.
NBC 5's Holley Ford and Ben Russell contributed to this report.