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Friend: Exchange Student Shot by Montana Homeowner Thought Burglaries Were Game

MISSOULA, Mont. — A teenager who was with a German exchange student the night he was fatally shot in a Montana garage testified at the homeowner's murder trial Tuesday that his friend thought burglarizing garages was a game and didn't know he could get shot.

"I didn't like it, but we never knew that if you went in a garage that someone could, like, shoot you," Robby Pazmino said of the practice known as "garage hopping."

Pazmino, 19, of Quito, Ecuador, told jurors that he and Diren Dede, 17, became fast friends after they met as exchange students in Missoula. They had been involved in garage-hopping on other occasions and many students at their high school were doing it, Pazmino said. When the pair went for a walk late April 26, they noticed Markus Kaarma's garage door partially open. Pazmino said they didn't discuss burglarizing garages that night, but he asked Dede if he was "going there."

Dede didn't respond, so Pazmino said he walked down the street and waited.

Pazmino testified that he started running after hearing the first shot, jumping a few fences to get back to the home of Diren's host family. He said he didn't call 911 because he didn't think a person would have been shot.

Pazmino's testimony came as prosecutors seek to portray defendant Kaarma as unstable and intent on harming anyone who tried to burglarize his garage before he shot and killed Dede early April 27.

Previous witnesses testified that Kaarma was on edge from previous burglaries, and prosecutors have said that he fired a pump-action shotgun four times into the garage — pausing between the third and fourth shots.

Kaarma's attorneys insist he feared for his life and didn't know if the intruder was armed. They argue Montana's "stand your ground" law allowed Kaarma to use deadly force to defend his home.

Several of Kaarma's neighbors testified Tuesday that they heard four gunshots that morning with the pause. Two neighbors said they were certain in conversations with Kaarma's girlfriend, Janelle Pflager, that she said they planned to bait the burglars into coming back into their garage.

One of them, Robin Rosenquist, said Pflager spoke with her about a burglary in the days before the shooting, saying she was going to buy a baby video monitor to put in the garage in case intruders came back. Rosenquist said she asked Pflager if she thought they would really return.

"She said, 'Oh yeah, he's coming back because we are going to bait him,'" Rosenquist testified.

Image: Markus Kaarma waits to be dismissed during an afternoon break in Missoula County Court in Missoula Montana
Markus Kaarma waits to be dismissed during an afternoon break in Missoula County Court in Missoula, Montana December 5, 2014. Markus Kaarma, 30, is charged with deliberate homicide in the death of 17-year-old Diren Dede of Hamburg, Germany, whom authorities said was slain while apparently scavenging garages for alcohol in the defendant's Missoula neighborhood. ARTHUR MOURATIDIS / Reuters

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— The Associated Press