Investigators aren’t talking about what went down when South African Olympic great Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. But at least one report says that Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp from behind a closed bathroom door. Could Pistorius have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder in a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world?
It is well documented that Pistorius loves guns, especially the 9 mm pistol with which he shot his girlfriend. Known as the “Blade Runner” because of his prosthetic legs, he lives in Pretoria, South Africa where handguns are often deemed a necessity. Burglaries are rampant and murders are common there, even in the more fashionable districts in Pretoria, where Pistorius’ lived before his arrest. Pistorius was thus understandably concerned about being a crime victim and packed guns in his house just in case. But he also made it clear that he would be ready for trouble if someone dared to enter his home.
In November, he tweeted about how he was ready to defend himself against a would-be intruder. While obviously kidding, Pistorius’ Tweet reflects a potentially trigger-happy mindset:
“Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking it’s an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry! waa.”
In a profile in New York Times Magazine on one of the world’s most famous Olympic athletes, Pistorius lived up to his reputation as someone who lived as intensively as he competed, and whose love for guns reflected a penchant for living on the edge. His passions, when not training for the next world-class track meet, included driving his Nissan GT-R at 155 miles per hour, buying thoroughbred race horses, and heading out to the shooting range to fire off dozens of rounds with his 9-millimeter pistol.
The author of the New York Times Magazine article, Michael Sokolove, described a day out on the shooting range with Pistorius:
“We should go to the range,” Pistorius said. He fetched his 9-millimeter handgun and two boxes of ammunition. We got back in the car and drove to a nearby firing range, where he instructed me on proper technique. Pistorius was a good coach. A couple of my shots got close to the bull’s-eye, which delighted him. “Maybe you should do this more,” he said. “If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly.” I asked him how often he came to the range. “Just sometimes when I can’t sleep,” he said.
Pistorius described to Sokolove how he had recently packed his 9 mm one night when his security alarm went off again. He crept downstairs but didn’t find anyone there. However, he didn’t describe what he would have done if he had found someone prowling around inside his home.
His girlfriend, a famous model and law school graduate, had indicated that she was looking forward to doing something exciting with Pistorius on Valentine’s day in a tweet. Maybe she had meant to surprise him at his home?
“What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???” she tweeted. “… It should be a day of love for everyone :) may it be blessed!”
Police have not commented on whether or not Pistorius could have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder when he shot her four times at 3:00 AM. However, the possibility exists, of course, that Pistorius did knowingly kill his girlfriend. Police had been called to his home in the past after receiving domestic disturbance calls after he began dating Steenkamp.
In another incident in 2009, Pistorius was arrested when a 19-year-old woman accused him of assaulting her, according to The Guardian, but the woman reportedly dropped the charges.
Regardless, Pistorius and Steenkamp were one of the world’s most glamorous couples. But now, the super model is dead and the Olympic great remains in jail, far removed from his fast-living and gun-toting lifestyle. Whether the shooting is deemed an accident or not, he’s unlikely to return to the great heights on which he once stood.