The father of Marvin Gaye said in a jail cell interview published here today that he did shoot his son, but thought the weapon that killed the soul singer was loaded with BBs or blanks and "I regret what happened to this moment."
"I pulled the trigger," Marvin Gay Sr. said. "The first one didn't seem to bother him. He put his hand up to his face like he'd been hit with a BB. And then I fired again. I was backing up toward my room. I was going to go in there and lock the door.
"Ma comes in, she says 'Marvin's bleeding.' I went down the hall and looked. " 'Babe,' I said, 'call the paramedics.' "
In the interview, published in today's Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Gay, a retired ordained minister, also said his son was heavily using cocaine, which turned him into "something like a beastlike person . . . I heard him all the time, the sniffing." He said the singer beat him violently during the argument before the shooting, a statement disputed by police.
"I didn't mean to do it," he said. "I fear God. I respect God. I'm sorry and I regret what happened to this moment."
The elder Gay--whose name is spelled differently because his son added an "e" to the family name when he began his career--said his son was troubled and prone to violent outbursts.
Gay pleaded innocent to a murder charge Wednesday, and was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail while psychological tests requested by his attorney are conducted.
Gay said the singer-composer, who had lived in his parents' home for four months, feared someone was trying to kill him and kept guns in the home. He said the gun that fired the fatal shots belonged to Gaye, and that his son carried a gun in his robe the morning of the argument that ended in his death.
Gay said the argument began early April 1 when he went looking for his wife to ask her where to find one of the couple's insurance policies. Hearing her voice, he entered a guest bedroom being used by his son. Eventually, the scene shifted to Gay's bedroom.
"He took me from the back," Gay said, "and he grabbed me and he slung me to the floor and he started beating me, kicking me.
"He kicked me everywhere he could kick me."
Gay said he did not resist but told his son to stay away. His wife was pleading with his son to stop, he said.
"He knocked me onto the bed and when I fell, my hand happened to feel the little gun under the pillow," he said.
"Marvin was the very one that put that gun under my pillow four months ago," said Gay. "When he came home, he was always paranoid. I thought it was loaded with blanks or BBs," Gay said. "I didn't know any bullets was in the gun."
Gay said he did not know his son was dead until a detective told him hours later.
"I just didn't believe it. I thought he was kidding me. I said, 'Oh, God of mercy. Oh. Oh. Oh.' It just shocked me. I just went to pieces, just cold. I just sit there and I didn't know what to do, just sitting there like a mummy."
Police Lt. Robert Martin, commander of detectives handling the case, said physical evidence and statements from Gay's wife, Alberta, paint a different picture.
Martin said the fight broke out in an upstairs bedroom and the father was "apparently pushed to the floor at one point," but added, "There was no indication of bruises on his head, nothing like he'd been punched out or that kind of stuff."
The two were separated by the mother, Martin said, and Gaye was on the bed talking to her when the father appeared at the doorway with a gun in his hand and fired one round. He said the father fired a second round at point-blank range.
Gay said he fired because he was trying to ward off his son's blows.
"I do know I did fire the gun. I was just trying to keep him back off of me," he said. "I just want the world to know it wasn't presumptuous on my part," Gay said.
Asked if he ever loved his son, he said, "Let's say that I didn't dislike him."
Gay said he had seen no news accounts of the death of his son, whose hits ranged from the 1960s Motown sound of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" to the 1983 Grammy-winning "Sexual Healing."
Nor had he heard from his wife and family, he said.
"If you see my wife, tell her I'm hurt and I want to see her so bad--all of my children," Gay said. "I don't know whether they've turned against me or what."