Stricken by a rare eye cancer, Javier Izquierdo cannot see.
But he knew, as his younger brother carefully walked him back from a Liberty City grocery store last August, that something was wrong.
“I felt a change in the atmosphere,” Javier Izquierdo, 22, told jurors Wednesday. “The air got thicker. It got a little more hard to breathe. I didn’t feel right.”
He heard voices. “Hand over all your s**t.” Then a struggle ensued. “Get him!”
Shots. Five of them.
Izquierdo felt for his brother, Ramiro “Tony” Izquierdo. His body lay crumpled on the ground.
“I called his name but I heard like a whimper,” Izquierdo said. “I grabbed his hand. His heart was still going. Still pumping blood. I kept telling him ‘Hold on, hold on.’ ”
Somebody called 911, but the paramedics arrived too late. His brother, just 20 years old and the chief caretaker of his blind sibling and grandmother, died from the fatal volley of bullets.
Izquierdo’s testimony Wednesday marked an emotional start to the trial of the alleged killer, a 14-year-old named Juaquan Hall.
The murder followed a family life shaped by a rare disease. His relatives suffer from “bilateral retinoblastoma,” a hereditary eye cancer that begins at childhood — a condition that Tony Izquierdo himself did not get.
But the disease cost his 61-year-old grandmother her vision when she was an infant. One of his sisters died of the cancer when she was only 9.
Prosecutors say that Hall was the gunman who shot Tony Izquierdo as he walked his blind brother Javier back from buying shampoo and pastries at a nearby market.
An eyewitness sitting in a nearby car witnessed the shooting and picked out Hall, who wore a distinct hooded sweatshirt, prosecutor Alicia Priovolos told jurors. Facebook photos later showed him wearing the same sweatshirt, which was found discarded in a nearby trash can.
“At the end of this case, you will see beyond a reasonable doubt, this defendant shot Tony and tried to rob him,” Priovolos said.
That day, prosecutors said, Hall was with another young man, Terrence Smith, 20, who was captured shortly afterward while holding the gun. He was not charged with the murder.
But Hall’s defense attorney pinned the blame on Smith, saying Hall was never there that day. “There is no physical evidence linking my client whatsoever to this crime,” defense lawyer Thomas Cobitz told jurors.
A slew of alibi witnesses will testify that he was instead practicing with his football team at a neighborhood park during the shooting, Cobitz said.
The trial continues Thursday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Richard Hersch.