A seemingly contrite and fidgety former University of Oklahoma student captured on video reciting racist chants offered a public apology Wednesday at an Oklahoma City church.

Dressed in a blue suit and red print tie, and surrounded by community leaders, the now expelled Levi Pettit said during a press conference that he deeply regrets the use of a racial epithet in a video with other members of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He said he had spent the afternoon and the last few days with community leaders and students, who helped open his eyes to the pain caused by using such words.

“Although I don’t deserve it, I want to ask for your forgiveness,” Pettit, 20, said during a news conference at Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. “I never thought of myself as a racist … but the bottom line is the words that were said in that chant were mean, hateful and racist.”

Pettit is partnering with Oklahoma State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, who chairs the Oklahoma Black Caucus and graduated from the University of Oklahoma, to come to some resolution after the leak of the video that went viral and ignited an uproar on campus and across the country. Pittman stood next to Pettit during the news conference. Earlier in the afternoon, Pettit met with Pittman, NAACP representatives, pastors and students.

Pettit said he knew that using the racial epithet was wrong, but his meeting with the community members and students helped bring deeper meaning to him.

“I knew they were wrong but I never knew how or why they were wrong and the people I’ve met with … have opened my eyes to really put meaning behind those words,” he said as a community leader standing behind him patted him on the back. “Meeting with a few people does not change what I did, but it has begun to change me.”

He said he met Tuesday with members of the university’s football team leadership. He said that moving forward, he hopes to work toward preventing racism.

The OU chapter of Pettit’s fraternity was booted off campus after the incident and Pettit and another student, Parker Rice, expelled. Both students have said they withdrew from the school.

Immediately after the incident, Pettit’s parents offered a public apology for the incident. Pettit said Wednesday that he waited until now to apologize because he wanted to wait until spring break was over and students and staff were back on campus.