Pistorius fired gun in restaurant, court told
Boxer testifies that accused asked a friend to take blame for incident
Oscar Pistorius leans over to speak to his legal counsel from the dock in court on the third day of his trial at the high court in Pretoria yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Alon Skuy
Oscar Pistorius fired a gun in a crowded restaurant, and told a friend to take the blame, a month before he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a court heard yesterday.
The testimony from a friend of the accused came as the prosecution in South Africa’s high-profile murder trial opened a new line of attack, apparently seeking to portray Mr Pistorius as irresponsible and trigger happy.
Kevin Lerena, a professional boxer, said the incident happened at lunchtime on January 11th, 2013 when he was with Mr Pistorius, a man called Darren Fresco and British sprinter Martyn Rooney, at a restaurant in the Melrose Arch area of Johannesburg.
Mr Fresco passed his gun to Mr Pistorius under the table and told him there was a bullet in the chamber, Mr Lerena said. “A shot went off in the restaurant, then there was just complete silence,” the 21 year old continued.
“I was shocked. I looked down, and just where my foot was stationary there was a hole in the floor. I had a little graze on my toe. I wasn’t hurt or injured.”
He said there was blood and “there could have been a fatality”, but he did not require medical attention. “I didn’t expect it. I didn’t understand it. Oscar said, ‘is everything okay? I apologise. I don’t know how the gun went off’.”
Before the restaurant management approached the table, Mr Lerena claimed, Mr Pistorius asked Mr Fresco to say he was responsible for the shot. “Oscar said to Darren, ‘just say it was you. I don’t want any tension around me. Just say it was you. Please take the blame for me, there’s too much media hype around me’. And Darren took the blame for him.”
Mr Lerena said he never spoke about the incident. But, he said, two days after Mr Pistorius shot Ms Steenkamp, he woke to find more than 100 missed calls on his phone as media tried to contact him about the restaurant accident.
Jason Loupis, owner of the Tashas restaurant, also took the witness stand.
He said: “I heard a loud bang. It sounded like a gun but I hoped not. I hoped it was a balloon. They all looked at me . . . Mr Fresco then said, ‘sorry Jason, my gun fell out of my tracksuit pants’.
Mr Loupis’s wife, Maria, said: “Darren . . .told me the gun fell out of his pants, his tracksuit . . . I said to him ‘what’s the first rule of owning a gun? Safety first?’ He said ‘yes’, and I hit him over the head.”
The incident at Tashas is one of three additional charges Mr Pistorius (27) faces at the Pretoria trial. He is also charged with firing a gun through a moving car’s sunroof, and with illegal possession of ammunition.
The state is expected to use these incidents to illustrate a pattern of reckless behaviour to prove he deliberately gunned down Ms Steenkamp (29) on Valentine’s Day last year. Mr Pistorius denies the charges.
– ( Guardian service)