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Pistorius trial: Boxer recounts gunshot at eatery




BY GERALD IMRAY AND CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
ASSOCIATED PRESS

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame after a pistol was accidentally fired in a Johannesburg restaurant, weeks before the double-amputee runner fatally shot his girlfriend, a witness testified Wednesday at Pistorius' murder trial.

The testimony by boxer Kevin Lerena relates to firearms charges against Pistorius, and raises questions about the character of a man who insists he accidentally shot dead Reeva Steenkamp in his home in the early hours of Feb. 14 last year. Prosecutors allege he intentionally shoot Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend.

Lerena said the restaurant shooting happened when he and Pistorius and two other friends were in a restaurant in the swank Melrose Arch area of Johannesburg in January 2013. One friend, Darren Fresco, passed his gun to Pistorius under the table and told him that there was a bullet in the chamber, Lerena said. Then a shot went off, puncturing the floor near Lerena's foot had been, he said.

"There was just complete silence," said Lerena, who described being in shock and having blood where his toe was grazed in the incident. Then, he said, Pistorius apologized, saying: "Are you OK? Is everybody OK?"

Before the restaurant management approached the table, Lerena said, Pistorius asked Fresco to say he was responsible for the gunshot.

`"Just say it was you. I don't want any tension around me,"` Lerena remembered Pistorius saying. `"There's too much media hype around me."`

Lerena said they paid the bill and left the restaurant, and he never spoke about the incident. Two days after Pistorius shot Steenkamp, he said, he woke up to find over 100 missed calls on his telephone as media from around the world tried to contact him to ask about the restaurant shooting.

Earlier Wednesday, chief defense lawyer Barry Roux sought to undermine the prosecution testimony of a couple who say they heard a woman's screams and gunfire the night that Pistorius killed Steenkamp. Telephone records will show that the banging sounds the neighbors heard were not gunshots but a distressed Pistorius breaking down the toilet door with a cricket bat after realizing he had shot Steenkamp when she was in the toilet, thinking it was an intruder, Roux asserted.

Throwing doubt on the witnesses' recollection of the sequence is crucial for Pistorius' defense after the state maintained there was a loud argument on the night he shot Steenkamp through a door in his bathroom and screams and shouts before a gun was fired.

Pistorius' team wants to show the screams were Pistorius calling for help after the accidental killing.

Charl Johnson and his wife Michelle Burger have testified to hearing a woman screaming, a man shouting for help and then gunshots. During his cross-examination of Johnson, Roux said call records will show Pistorius called an estate manager at around 3:19 a.m. and soon after he bashed in the door with the bat.

In Johnson and Burger's testimony, they say they heard what they described as shots straight after making a call to security at 3:16 a.m. The similar times show the sounds were the bat on the door, Roux argued.

"There is only one thing you could have heard, because it coincides precisely," Roux said to Johnson. "That was the time that he (Pistorius) broke down the door (with the bat)."

Johnson replied, addressing the judge: "My lady, I am convinced the sound I heard was gunshots."

Pistorius, 27, was a globally admired athlete whose career peaked when he ran in the 2012 Olympics. He was born without fibula bones because of a congenital defect and his legs were amputated when he was 11 months old. He has run on carbon-fiber blades and is a multiple Paralympic medalist. He also competed at the London Olympics but didn't win a medal.

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richard2222carr March 05 2014 at 10:18 AM

What i see here is steroid rage.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
hambrock7 March 05 2014 at 11:43 AM

He doesn't have a leg to stand on now after this.

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VALERIE March 05 2014 at 11:26 AM

This shooting is a tragedy any way it happened. Both families filled with grief and loss for their children. I hope justice prevails.

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blessed March 05 2014 at 11:47 AM

Too much of free, white, and twenty-oneness. He felt entitled.

He could do what the he hockey sticks what he wanted.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
mercs2112 March 05 2014 at 11:49 AM

why does he even deserve a trial?? I can see I there was some doubt...But blasting four shots through a closed bathroom and murdering your girlfriend whos cowering inside,,i mean really... Sickening society where animals like this try desperately to get a not guilty verdict through technicalities or insane defense ideas that are carefully planned in a small sickening room in a lawyers office. This guy is a murderer the poor innocent woman is dead on a bathroom floor

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kross.ross March 05 2014 at 10:36 AM

She had a key so how did he think it was a burglar? There a piece or pieces missing from this story that are not being told. They may have been having relationship problems and he snapped. He shot her on Valentine's Day, so why weren't they both out together? He stayed home and she went out with friends? He's guilty of murder; plain and simple.

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susie March 05 2014 at 10:32 AM

Interesting case-I don't see anything he or his team can do to save him-cooling his temper in jail will make him realize he must abide by the law. Feel sorry for girls' family - what a waste to loose her to this loser.

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1 reply
Carla Beckman susie March 05 2014 at 12:14 PM

lose

Flag Reply 0 rate up
d1anaw March 05 2014 at 10:32 AM

This guy is guilty as hell. If they let him off, he will kill again.

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2 replies
wlh1923 d1anaw March 05 2014 at 10:52 AM

If "they" let him off? Who are you talking about? There are no juries in South Africa.

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1 reply
jay love wlh1923 March 05 2014 at 11:11 AM

The Judge then, that would be a "they" as in the court system?? its clear this freak is guilty as hell. he is an over-privilged little punk who only is concerned for himself and how his life is effected by actions he takes again and again. imagine mis-handling a weapon in a place nobody should be playing with one and his only concern is for his own hide and how it may effect him and his career? he would easily place the blame over to a "friend" and allow him to take whatever legal trouble comes from it. this seems to be the type of personality we are dealing with?

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Tina Slattery d1anaw March 05 2014 at 11:18 AM

Think O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony. This scumbag is a hero in his country and will most likely walk, oops hobble out, a free man.

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hcangelscheer March 05 2014 at 10:30 AM

I don't believe the defense story for a minute. :(

Flag Reply +4 rate up
beaniepenie March 05 2014 at 10:29 AM

I just see rage period..this guy has some major issues..like he can't take no for an answer...he's guilty!!!!

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1 reply
hattie54 beaniepenie March 05 2014 at 11:35 AM

I bet they were arguing over Reeva being in contact with her old boyfriend.I am sure the iphone records are very revealing.

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