It was early August last year when I casually turned on the tube to look in on track and field from the London Olympic games. As I watched transfixed, there was a young guy running like a bat out of hell on a couple of metal blades connected to each leg below the knee. I soon discovered this young speed merchant nicknamed “Blade Runner” was born without a fibula in either leg and both legs were amputated below the knee at age 11 months.
His name was Oscar Pistorius. He was a South African sprinter in his mid-20’s keeping up with the best of his lot in the world. He was good enough to place 2nd in his heat and advance to the semi-finals against the world’s best. As I was to find out later, he had been running his incredible 100, 200 and 400 meter sprints in school and the Paralympics since his high school days at Pretoria Boys High School.
Up until a few weeks ago, he was a national treasure. At once gifted and inspiring, he was likeable and, but for a prematurely receding hairline, a striking looking young man. Nike signed him to a big contract. He continued to run competitively after the Olympics and was in great demand for assorted track events and commercial appearances. He lived in a mansion.
He had a beautiful girlfriend that most young men around his current age of 26 only see in the pages of Maxim. Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. The 29-year-old Steenkamp was a law school grad but gravitated to modeling and actually did considerable work in her chosen profession internationally. She was also an activist for women’s issues.
Now she’s dead and Oscar admits to shooting her through the door of a tiny water closet in his home. In a tragic irony, the killing took place in the early hours of Valentine’s Day. Pistorius was arrested, jailed and charged with premeditated murder. After a few days of legal posturing and defense attacks on the police, the sprinter was released on six-figure bail.
The next courtroom media appearance is scheduled for June 4th when his defense team will pull out all the stops to free up their man.
Here’s Oscar’s explanation for the events that tragic night. He woke up and went on to the balcony in the black of night to bring in a fan and close the blinds and sliding doors. He claims to not have put on his prosthetic legs at this point. He then hears a noise in the bathroom that he’s convinced is coming from an intruder. He yells at the perceived intruder to get out of his house. He sees the bathroom window is open. The bathroom is in two sections. There is a door to the larger outside area that appears to house a hot tub. Then the toilet is in a different smaller room often referred to as a water closet or WC.
Pistorius fires 4 shots through the WC door hitting Steencamp with 3 of those rounds including the fatal bullet to the head. He returns to the bedroom and notices that his girlfriend is not in bed. He THEN puts on his prosthetic legs and proceeds back to the bathroom. He carries her to the first floor and attempts to revive her to no avail.
The prosecution has a different take. But before we look at that, consider that the defense, in the best Johnnie Cochran/OJ tradition, accuses lead detective, Hilton Botha and his team of botching the investigation by being blithering, incompetent fools. Botha missed a spent cartridge in the toilet for instance. A quantity of unlicensed .38 caliber ammo was found in a safe in the house (the same caliber used in the killing). Botha apparently didn’t attempt to find out who owned the illegal ammunition. Who in the ef would you think owned it? There was also the matter of Botha not being swaddled in protective clothing. “Oh, the contamination; the compromised evidence!!!”
The defense insisted that Botha’s assertion that a steroid-like banned substance was found was actually a perfectly legal herbal/testosterone combination. Of course, it has yet to be tested and who doesn’t have needles and injection equipment lying around? This is actually important to the case. If it was steroid-like, it could go to state of mind. Check out the Chris Benoit story.
But the best was yet to come for Oscar’s lawyers. It turns out that Botha, himself, is being charged with the attempted murder of 7 people stemming from an incident where Botha and a couple of law enforcement colleagues fired on a mini-bus taxi while apparently drunk. No charges were initially filed for lack of evidence, but that was before the pressure of a national hero came to bear. Hardly any media bothered to describe the fleeing suspect who, with another man, supposedly killed a woman, dismembered her and dumped the remains down a drain. No blood alcohol test were taken nor is there mention of Botha’s contention that the taxi tried to push the officers off the road.
Gruesome details aside, Oscar is rid of Botha. Better be careful what you wish for. He’s being replaced by Vinesh Moonoo, a 30-year veteran of the South African police service and generally considered the best detective in the country. Here’s what that best detective is going to be looking at. Police indicate there have been previous incidents at the home including “allegations of a domestic nature.” Pistorius has a temper and guns, a lethal combination. Neighbors heard an hour of loud talking. It was the neighbors who called the police after the gunshots, not Oscar.
Without a doubt the most treacherous legal terrain that Pistorius will have to navigate involves the timeline for putting on his prosthetic legs. He says he didn’t do that until after he realized he had shot his girlfriend. He would have fired the shots through the WC door while still on his “stumps.” The trajectory of the shots apparently say otherwise. Get on your knees and point your finger at the level that Reeva was cowering in the WC. Now stand up and do the same thing. The trajectory means everything. And she wouldn’t respond to his yelling at the “intruder?”
Amateur sleuth Dennis S’ educated guess: Oscar and Reeva got into it (probably over another guy or gal). He put on his prosthetic legs. She might have been able to escape the “stumps.” He grabbed a gun, she ran for the nearest cover. He blasted away. As a friend and colleague who takes a broader view pointed out; whether it was out of control emotional intent or gut-wrenching accidental infliction of a mortal wound to the love of one’s life, either scenario explodes gun nut myths.
Pistorius most likely gets an initial famous person dispensation for his murky and barely believable account of what happened. Look for premeditated to be dropped and replaced by a lesser charge. Conviction will probably follow with a 2-5 year sentence. Or he might just get probation.
I do believe the tears were genuine. He did love her.
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
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