SANFORD, Fla. — A friend who was on the phone with 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 with a racial epithet, and that he said he thought he had evaded him. But she said a short time later, he let out a profanity.
She said Martin said Zimmerman was behind him, and that she heard Martin ask, ‘‘What are you following me for?’’ She then heard what she said sounded like Martin’s phone earpiece dropping into the grass, followed by Martin yelling, ‘‘Get off! Get off!’’
Then the phone went dead, she said.
Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for killing Martin. Zimmerman had 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 shot Martin after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk.
Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, has denied that his confrontation with the black teenager had anything to do with race, as Martin’s family and its supporters assert.
Jeantel’s testimony came after two former residents of the neighborhood testified about hearing shouts for help in the moments before the shooting.
Jayne Surdyka told the court that immediately before the shooting, she heard an aggressive voice and a softer voice exchanging words for several minutes in an area behind her townhome at the Retreat at Twin Lakes.
‘‘It was someone being very aggressive and angry at someone,’’ she said.
During the struggle, she said, she saw a person in dark clothes on top of the other person. Martin was wearing a dark sweatshirt and Zimmerman wore red clothing. Surdyka said she saw the person who was on top get off the body after the shot was fired.
During cross-examination, defense lawyer Don West tried to show there was a lapse in what Surdyka saw. Defense lawyers contend Martin was on top of Zimmerman during the struggle, but after the neighborhood watch volunteer fired a shot, Zimmerman got on top of Martin.