SANFORD — A friend who was on the phone with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin moments before he was fatally shot by George Zimmerman testified that she heard the Miami teen shout, "Get off! Get off!" before his telephone went dead.
Rachel Jeantel, 19, recounted to jurors in Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial how Martin told her he was being followed by a man as he walked through the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex on his way back from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee.
Jeantel is considered one of the prosecution's most important witnesses because she was the last person to talk to Martin before his encounter with Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012.
She testified that Martin described the man following him as "a creepy-ass Cracker," and he thought he had evaded him. But she said that a short time later Martin let out a profanity.
Martin said Zimmerman was behind him, and she heard Martin ask, "What are you following me for?"
She then heard what sounded like Martin's phone earpiece dropping into the grass, and she heard him say, "Get off! Get off!" The phone then went dead, she said.
Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for killing Martin. Zimmerman followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.
Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic and has denied that his confrontation with the black teenager had anything to do with race.
Jeantel's testimony came after two former neighbors of Zimmerman testified Wednesday about hearing howls and shouts for help in the moments before the shooting.
Before the February 2012 shooting, Zimmerman had made about a half-dozen calls to a nonemergency police number to report suspicious characters in his neighborhood. Judge Debra Nelson on Wednesday ruled that they could be played for jurors.
Prosecutors had argued that the police dispatch calls were central to their case that Zimmerman committed second-degree murder, saying they showed his state of mind. He was increasingly frustrated with repeated burglaries and had reached a breaking point the night he shot the unarmed teenager, prosecutors say.
Defense attorneys argued that the calls were irrelevant.