Just moments before Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, he was on his cellphone talking with a 16-year-old girl. For the first time, the girl is speaking out about the last, horrifying moments of Martin's life.
"He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man," the girl told ABC News. "I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run."
According to accounts gleaned from 911 audio recordings made the night of the killing and the teenage girl's statements, Martin eventually did run. But George Zimmerman wasn't far behind, and soon the two would be face to face. Zimmerman, the self-appointed captain of the neighborhood watch, was armed with a 9 mm pistol. Trayvon had little more than a bag of candy in his pocket.
"Trayvon said, 'What are you following me for?' and the man said, 'What are you doing here?' Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the headset just fell. I called him again and he didn't answer the phone."
The line went dead, according to the girl's account.
"He knew he was being followed and tried to get away from the guy, and the guy still caught up with him," Tracey Martin, Trayvon's father, told ABC. "And that's the most disturbing part: He thought he had got away from the guy, and the guy back-tracked for him."
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, said the 16-year-old girl's statement of what happened moments before Martin was killed, "connects the dots."
Crump tells HuffPost that Martin's phone records show that he spent much of the day talking on his cellphone with the teenage girl, whose parents asked that her name not be used. Crump said that the two teenagers talked upward of 400 minutes throughout the day, and that Martin spoke with the young lady as he headed to a nearby convenience store and again while he headed back the half-mile or so back to his father's home.
The last call took place at 7:12 p.m., Crump said, at about the time that the girl says Martin noticed that he was being followed and took off running. At 7:17 p.m., according to a police report, the first officers arrived on the scene -- a patch of grass between a row of townhomes at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, where Trayvon, 17, was visiting his father -- to find the teen dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
In a call to 911 prior to the confrontation, Zimmerman said Martin looked high and suspicious, walking around slowly and looking at the homes. Crumps says the phone records show he was doing nothing more than talking on the phone with a young lady he was fond of.
The Sanford police questioned Zimmerman, 28, who told them that he killed Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman was soon released without being charged.
The police say they do not have enough evidence to counter Zimmerman's claims; despite the fact that as early as March 8, Sanford Police chief Bill Lee told HuffPost that Zimmerman disregarded a 911 dispatcher who told him to stand down and wait for the police to arrive. And that at some point Martin realized that Zimmerman, a stranger on a cellphone, was following him.
Lee's description of the events just before Zimmerman shot Martin also seem to corroborate the girl's account.
According to Lee, Zimmerman told investigators that Martin noticed that he was being followed and asked, "What's your problem?"
"He obviously knows Zimmerman is following him," Lee said. "So that's where this physical confrontation takes place."
With the national media spotlight shining more brightly, hundreds of thousands across the country have joined outraged calls to action, signing petitions calling for Zimmerman's arrest or are joining rallies and protests in support of Martin.
The pieces of the puzzle surrounding Martin's killing on Feb. 26 are slowly coming together, as more witnesses come forward to correct the record about what they saw and heard that night. Meanwhile, more scrutiny is being put on how local law enforcement has handled the case, as state and federal authorities have stepped in to investigate the killing further.
The Sanford police handed the case over to the State Attorney's Office last week, and yesterday the Justice Department and the FBI announced that they would be joining the probe into Martin's killing.
The Justice Department has promised to "conduct a thorough and independent review of all evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," according to a statement late Monday. And Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announced Tuesday morning that he plans to convene a grand jury to determine if Zimmerman should be charged in Martin’s death.
The girl's statements -- in conjunction with those of other witnesses and audio recordings of 911 calls made the night of the killing -- offer a clearer picture of what happened that night.
While Martin was on the phone with the girl, Zimmerman was on the line with a 911 dispatcher, reporting Martin as a "suspicious person."
Zimmerman's Call To 911
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something," Zimmerman tells the 911 operator. "He's just staring, looking at all the houses. Now he's coming toward me. He's got his hand in his waistband. Something's wrong with him."
Zimmerman described Martin as wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or jeans.
Zimmerman continues: "He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is. Can we get an officer over here?"
"These assholes always get away," he says later to the operator. Zimmerman is then heard giving directions to the dispatcher.
"Shit, he's running," Zimmerman says.
"Are you following him?" the dispatcher asks.
"Yes," Zimmerman responds.
"We don't need you to do that," the dispatcher says.
Zimmerman continued to pursue Martin, and moments later other calls started coming in to 911. Neighbors reported hearing screams, cries for help and then gunfire. Some sobbed as they talked about a dead boy and a man standing over him. In one recording, the sounds of wailing and what seem to be pleas for help and "No! No!" can be heard.
According to the Miami Herald, Zimmerman told the police that he had stepped out of his SUV to check the name of the street he was on, and that Trayvon sprang out of nowhere to attack him from behind as he was walking back to his truck. He said he feared for his life and shot Martin in self-defense. That account doesn't easily fit into the narrative cobbled together from what evidence had been made public.
"I think the [girl's account] is just more corroborative evidence that Trayvon was not the aggressor and that he was being actively pursued by George Zimmerman," said Jasmine Rand, one of the Martin family's attorneys.
Rand said the girl, a friend from Miami where Trayvon lived with his mother, "probably heard the moments closest to the end of his life, and she says that Zimmerman was pursuing him and that he pushed him or was physically aggressive with him."
That account, and corroboration from other witnesses who dispute that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense, she said, could be key in determining if Zimmerman acted legally that night.
"What we have now is several witnesses saying the same thing: that Zimmerman was the aggressor, that he followed him and pursued him and at some point was on top of him," Rand said. "If you're trying to use a claim of self-defense, you can't be the one chasing, you can't be chasing the person that you say is being aggressive against you."
In the days after the shooting, witnesses have said they had trouble reaching the police to give their statements. Others would say that investigators twisted their testimony to fit a self-defense theory, asked leading questions during questioning and that, on the night of the killing, investigators peppered Zimmerman with questions before he could tell his story.
"It was self-defense," one witness said an investigator mouthed at the scene.
This article has been updated to include information from Chief Lee about the police's understanding of the circumstances of the incident, and to include statements from a Martin family attorney about Trayvon's phone records.
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