Criminal Justice

'Blade runner' Pistorius says he shot at intruder, not girlfriend, through bathroom door

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Oscar Pistorius. Featureflash

An inspirational international track star who has been charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend at his home in South Africa says he thought he was shooting at an intruder through a closed bathroom door early on Valentine’s Day.

In an affidavit read by his lawyer Tuesday in a court hearing in Pretoria, Oscar Pistorius, 26, known as the “blade runner” because of the sleek carbon fiber prosthetic lower legs and feet on which he competes, said he was happily in love with Reeva Steenkamp, 29. Authorities said she was struck by three of four bullets the athlete fired through a locked bathroom door roughly 20 feet from his bedroom. But he had no thought of killing her, Pistorius explained, when he awakened and, terror-struck to think that a noise in the bathroom was made by an intruder, got out of bed and fired at the door, calling to Steenkamp, who he had thought was still in bed, to phone the police, reports the New York Times (reg. req.).

When he realized Steenkamp was not in bed, he tried to kick in the bathroom door with his artificial legs before breaking it down with a cricket bat to find her there, still barely alive.

Defense attorney Barry Roux said his client had no motive to kill Steenkamp and said there is no evidence that her slaying was intentional. “All we really know is she locked herself behind the toilet door and she was shot,” Roux said at the hearing.

However, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said that even the version of events recounted by Pistorius, if true, “still constitutes premeditated murder,” because the athlete knowingly shot at a defenseless burglar, the Guardian reported.

Under South African law, lethal force is permissible in self-defense when one’s life is at risk, and cannot continue once the immediate threat is gone, Reuters reports.

If convicted of premeditated murder, Pistorius would face a mandatory life prison term, although he would be eligible for parole in 25 years or less. No decision has been made concerning bail and another hearing is set for Wednesday.

CNN provides a copy of the affidavit.

The Associated Press and the Daily Mail also have stories.

Related coverage: “Double Amputee Can Run for Olympic Spot Despite Prosthetics, CAS Says” “Infamous client, infamous law firm”

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