WASHINGTON DC, February 14, 2013 – South African police charged Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius, 26 with murder after a woman was found fatally shot in Pistorius’ Pretoria home early Thursday morning.
Col. Katlego Mogale, a police spokeswoman, stated that police responded to reports of gunshots at Mr. Pistorius’ upscale housing complex, where a 30-year-old woman was later pronounced dead from gunshot wounds. Pistorius was taken into custody and later charged with murder. Police said that there was no other suspect in connection with the shooting.
The woman has been identified in the media as Pistorius’ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 30. Steenkamp’s twitter page describes her as “SA Model, Cover Girl, Tropika Island of Treasure Celeb Contestant, Law Graduate, Child of God.” Reports state that she was shot in the arm and leg. A 9mm pistol was recovered at the scene.
Initial media reports indicated that Pistorius told police he had accidentally shot Steenkamp when he mistook her for a burglar as she was trying to surprise him for Valentine’s Day. South Africa has a high rate of violence as well as a high rate of legal handgun ownership.
South African police declined to comment on the circumstances of the shooting, but confirmed previous incidents of a “domestic nature” at Pistorius’ home.
Known as the “Blade Runner” for the carbon fiber prosthetics he uses, Pistorius was not allowed to compete in the 2008 Beijing games because it was believed that his prosthesis gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. After employing a legal team to plead his case, Pistorius gained world fame last year as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic games, reaching the 400 meter semifinals. He then went on to win the gold medals in the 400 meter individual and the 4 x 100 meter relay events at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Pistorius has long been a star in South Africa.
Steenkamp and Pistorius were said to have been dating for several months. Steenkamp was a model and a contestant on a reality show. Her family and friends are said to be stunned. Steenkamp was looking forward to Valentine’s Day, tweeting “What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?” a few hours before her death.
Pistorius spent the night in police custody in 2009 after allegedly slamming a door on a woman. Charges were ultimately dropped and Pistorius’ family and friends claim it was all an accident.
Pistorius’ father, Henke Pistorius, as well as the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee have refused to comment pending the investigation. Originally scheduled for Thursday, Pistorius’ court hearing has been delayed to Friday to give forensic examiners time to investigate and prosecutors to prepare their case. Police intend to oppose bail at Friday’s hearing, according to the National Prosecuting Authority.
Nike, one of Pistorius’ sponsors, has removed an advertisement featuring Pistorius from its website. South Africa’s M-Net cable TV channel is also removing advertisements featuring Pistorius. Pistorius also has contracts with Oakley and Thierry Mugler, reportedly making over $2 million a year in sponsorship deals.
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