One of the most recognizable athletes from the 2012 Summer Olympics has been charged with murder. Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee sprinter, is accused of fatally shooting a woman in his Pretoria home. And the victim appears to be his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
According to the NY Times, "Early Thursday morning, the police responded to a report of gunshots in the upscale housing complex where Mr. Pistorius lives, said Col. Katlego Mogale, a police spokeswoman. When they arrived, they found paramedics treating a 30-year-old woman for gunshot wounds. The woman was pronounced dead and a 26-year-old man was taken into custody, Colonel Mogale said." The victim was shot four times, in the head and upper body, and a 9mm gun was found at the scene.
Steenkamp's publicist confirmed her death: Sarit Tomlinson said, "Everyone who knew her is in tears. She was an absolute angel, the sweetest, sweetest human being, a kind human being." Tomlinson also noted that Steenkamp, who was a law school graduate, was scheduled to give a talk to school students today, "It was about empowerment and inspiration and what inspires you and how to follow your dreams."
The couple had been dating for a few months. Some South African media outlets reported that Pistorius told police that he had mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder, but BBC News reports that "neighbours heard screaming and shouting around the time of the shooting, and [police say] they been called to investigate incidents of a domestic nature at the same house in the past." Just yesterday, Steenkamp Tweeted, "It's a beautiful day!Make things happen.Starting my day off with a yummy healthy shake from my boo :) #healthyliving pic.twitter.com/47UbWww6" and "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay"
A Daily Mail reporter had noted that Pistorius, who lives in an upscale gated community, kept a cache of weapons in his home, ostensibly to guard himself from home invasions, "In Oscar's bedroom lay one cricket bat and one baseball bat behind the door, a revolver by his bed and a machine gun by the window." There's a high rate of violent crime in South Africa and a neighbor told Reuters, "It is difficult to imagine an intruder entering this community, but we live in a country where intruders can get in wherever they want to. Oscar is a good guy, an upstanding neighbor, and if he is innocent I feel for this guy deeply."
Pistorius was allowed to compete in the Olympics while wearing carbon fiber prosthetic blades (he was born without a fibula in both legs) and reached the 400 semifinals. He won multiple gold medals in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympics. The NY Times notes that the murder charge "stunned a nation that had elevated Mr. Pistorius to iconic status as a national sporting hero, an emblem of the ability to overcome acute adversity and a symbol of South Africa’s ability to project achievements onto the world stage." Pistorius has many high-profile sponsors, including Nike, which said it was "saddened by the news, but we have no further comment to make at this stage."