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Pistorius, the "blade runner," charged with murder of girlfriend

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter dubbed the Blade Runner, was charged Thursday in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend at his upscale home in South Africa, a shocking twist to one of the feel-good stories of last summer's Olympics.

Pistorius buried his face in the hood of his workout jacket as officers escorted him from a police station after his arrest in the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old model who had spoken out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women.

Police said she was shot four times in the pre-dawn hours at Pistorius' villa in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius on a murder charge.

What sparked the shooting remained unclear, but police said they had received calls in the past about domestic altercations at the home of the 26-year-old athlete, who has spoken publicly about his love of firearms.

A police spokeswoman, Brigadier Denise Beukes, said the incidents included "allegations of a domestic nature."

"I'm not going to elaborate on it, but there have been incidents," Beukes said. She said Pistorius was home at the time of Steenkamp's death and "there is no other suspect involved."

Pistorius made history in the London Games when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and became an international star.

Thursday, companies quickly removed billboards and advertising featuring Pistorius, a national hero in South Africa who also inspired fans worldwide with the image of his high-tech carbon-fiber blades whipping through the air.

Kenny Oldwage, Pistorius' lawyer, told reporters the athlete was "emotional" after his arrest, "but he is keeping up." He said he planned to seek bail for Pistorius at a preliminary hearing Friday.

Pistorius has had troubles in the past in his personal life, which often featured fast cars, cage fighters and women.

In February 2009, he crashed a speedboat on South Africa's Vaal River, breaking his nose, jaw and several ribs and damaging an eye socket. He required 180 stitches to his face. Witnesses said he had been drinking, and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they did not do blood tests.

In November, Pistorius was involved in an altercation over a woman with a local coal mining millionaire, South African media reported. The two men involved the South African Police Service's elite Hawks investigative unit before settling the matter.

Pistorius' father, Henke Pistorius, said Thursday: "We all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady's parents."

A spokeswoman for Pistorius at Fast Track, an international sports marketing agency in London, said the athlete was assisting with the investigation and there would be no further comment "until matters become clearer."

The sprinter's former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hoped the shooting was "just a tragic accident."

"No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive," Giannini told The Associated Press in Italy. "Whenever he was tired or nervous, he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent."

Firearms captivated Pistorius, the subject of an online Nike advertisement that featured him with the caption: "I am a bullet in the chamber." In November 2011, he posted a photograph on Twitter of himself at a shooting range, bragging about his score. "Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!" he wrote.

Linked to a number of women by the South African media, Pistorius and Steenkamp were first seen together publicly in November. She was named one of the world's 100 Sexiest Women for two years running by the men's magazine FHM.

The leggy blonde with a law degree also appeared in international and South African ads and was a celebrity contestant on "Tropika Island of Treasure," a South African reality show filmed in Jamaica.

While known for her bikini-clad, vamping photo spreads, she tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape. Her tweets also focused on Pistorius, with one of her last messages noting her excitement over Valentine's Day.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she wrote. "It should be a day of love for everyone."

Police have not publicly named Steenkamp as the victim, saying only that a 30-year-old woman was killed. Steenkamp's publicist, however, confirmed in a statement that the model had died.

"Everyone is simply devastated," the publicist, Sarit Tomlinson, said. "She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed."

Police arrived at Pistorius' home after 3 a.m., and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive Steenkamp, police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said.

Officers later took Pistorius to a hospital so doctors could collect samples for DNA testing and check his blood alcohol content.

Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, and campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes.

He was initially banned because of his carbon fiber blades - which critics said gave him an unfair advantage - before being cleared by sport's highest court in 2008.

He was a last-minute selection to South Africa's Olympic team, competing in the 400 meters and the 4x400 relay. He later retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters.

South Africa's Sports Confederation, its Olympic committee and the International Paralympic Committee all had no comment on the shooting.

Shock rippled across South Africa, a nation of 50 million where nearly 50 people are killed each day, one of the world's highest murder rates. U.N. statistics say South Africa also has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, behind only Colombia.

"The question is: Why does this story make the news? Yes, because they are both celebrities, but this is happening on every single day in South Africa," said Adele Kirsten, a member of Gun Free South Africa.

"We have thousands of people killed annually by gun violence in our country. So the anger is about that it is preventable."

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Gerald Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Associated Press writers Michelle Faul and Ed Brown in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa, a stunning development in the life of a national hero known as the Blade Runner for his high-tech artificial legs.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times in the predawn hours in the house, in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria, police said.

Hours later after undergoing police questioning, Pistorius left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face. His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until Friday to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.

South Africans were shocked at the killing. But while Pistorius captured the nation's attention with his Olympic quest, police said there was a recent history of problems involving him. Police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes said the incidents included "allegations of a domestic nature."

"I'm not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents (at Pistorius' home)," Beukes said. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and "there is no other suspect involved."

Pistorius' father, Henke, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, only saying "we all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady's parents."

Neither Pistorius' agent Peet van Zyl nor coach Ampie Louw could be reached while Pistorius' own cellphone went straight to voicemail.

Pistorius' former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hopes it was "just a tragic accident." Giannini said he believed that Pistorius had been dating Steenkamp for "a few months."

"No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive," Giannini told the AP in Italy. "Whenever he was tired or nervous he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent."

Yet Pistorius had troubles in his personal life. In February 2009, he crashed a speed boat he was piloting on South Africa's Vaal River. Witnesses said he had been drinking before the crash and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they acknowledged at the time they hadn't conducted a blood test on the athlete. Pistorius broke his nose, jaw and several ribs in the crash, as well as damaged his eye socket and required some 180 stitches to his face.

In November, Pistorius also found himself in an altercation with a local coal mining millionaire over a woman, South African media reported. Eventually, the two men involved the South African Police Service's elite Hawks investigative unit before settling the matter.

Pistorius owned firearms and posted a photograph of himself at a shooting range in November 2011 to the social media website Twitter, bragging about his score.

"Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!" he tweeted.

Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police. Several local media outlets initially reported that the shooting may have been accidental.

Capacity Relations, a talent management firm, earlier named model Steenkamp as the victim of the shooting. Police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told the AP that officers received a call around 3 a.m. after the shooting.

A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.

Pistorius enjoyed target shooting with his pistol and an online advertisement featuring him for Nike read: "I am a bullet in the chamber." An article in January 2012 in The New York Times Magazine described him talking about how he pulled a pistol to search his home when his alarm went off the night before an interview. At Pistorius' suggestion, he and the journalist went to a nearby target range where they fired at targets with a 9 mm pistol. At one point, Pistorius told the writer: "If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly."

Asked how often he went target shooting, Pistorius replied: "Just sometimes when I can't sleep."

Police have still not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Steenkamp confirmed in a statement that the model was dead.

"We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away," Steenkamp's publicist Sarit Tomlinson said. "Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time, everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed."

Tomlinson said Steenkamp, known simply as Reeva, was one of FHM's (formerly For Him Magazine) 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running, appeared in countless international and national advertisements and was one of the celebrity contestants on the reality show "Tropika Island of Treasure," filmed in Jamaica.

She and Pistorius were first seen publicly together in November at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Later, she began mentioning the athlete in public messages on Twitter.

She also tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape as well as her excitement about Valentine's Day. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she tweeted. "It should be a day of love for everyone."

Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, propelling him to the status of an athletics superstar.

Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades - which critics said gave him an unfair advantage - he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.

He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history when his selection for South Africa's team was confirmed at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee released a statement on Thursday saying they had been "inundated" with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting. The International Paralympic Committee also said it wouldn't comment in detail apart from offering its condolences to the victim's family.

South Africa has some of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people killed each day in the nation of 50 million. It also has high rates of rape, other assaults, robbery and carjackings.

U.N. statistics show South Africa has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, second only to Colombia.

"The question is: Why does this story make the news? Yes, because they are both celebrities, but this is happening on every single day in South Africa," said Adele Kirsten, a member of Gun Free South Africa. "We have thousands of people killed annually by gun violence in our country. So the anger is about that it is preventable."

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend after model Reeva Steenkamp was shot inside the Olympic athlete's home in South Africa.

Police said a 26-year-old male would appear in court later on Thursday. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but police spokesperson Brigadier Denise Beukes said that Pistorius was at his home after the death of Steenkamp and "there is no other suspect involved."

Beukes said the suspect was undergoing blood alcohol and forensic tests and had made a request to be brought to court immediately. Beukes said he would apply for bail, but the South African Police Service would oppose the application.

Beukes said there had been "previous incidents" at Pistorius' home.

Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee runner to compete on the track at the Games and is one of South Africa's most famous athletes.

Having had both of his legs amputated below the knee when he was less than a year old, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes and finally was cleared by sport's highest court to be able to run at the top events. Pistorius competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games and also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.


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