Pistorius asked pal to take blame for restaurant shooting: witness
By Bob Fredericks and Post
March 5, 2014 | 8:26am
A weaselly Oscar Pistorius begged a pal to take the rap after a pistol went off in a South African restaurant just weeks before he blew his gal pal’s brains out, a witness said Wednesday at Pistorius’ murder trial.
Boxer Kevin Lerena’s explosive testimony raised questions about the character of the famed double amputee athlete known as the “Blade Runner,” who claimed he shot his gorgeous model girlfriend by accident on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Lerena said the shooting happened when he, Pistorius and two other buddies were in a posh Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013.
One of the pals, Darren Fresco, passed his gun to Pistorius under the table and told him that there was a bullet in the chamber, Lerena said.
But then a shot went off, striking the floor near Lerena’s foot, grazing his toe.
“A shot went off in the restaurant and then there was just complete silence… I looked down on the floor. Exactly where my foot was stationary, there was a hole in the floor,” said Lerena, who said his toe was bloodied by the bullet.
Then, he said, Pistorius apologized, saying: “Are you OK? Is everybody OK?”
Before the restaurant manager approached the table, Lerena said, Pistorius pleaded with Fresco to say he was to blame for the gunshot.
“Just say it was you. I don’t want any tension around me. There’s too much media hype around me,” Lerena remembered Pistorius saying.
“Darren took the blame.”
Lerena said they paid the bill and split from the restaurant, and that he never told anyone about the incident.
But two days after Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp, 29, as she cowered in the bathroom of his luxe Pretoria pad, he said he woke up to find more than 100 missed calls on his phone as media from around the world tried to contact him about the restaurant shooting.
Earlier Wednesday, chief defense lawyer Barry Roux sought to discredit the testimony of a couple who said they heard a woman’s “blood curdling screams” and gunfire the night Pistorius killed Steenkamp.
Telephone records will show that the banging sounds the neighbors heard were not gunshots but Pistorius desperately trying to break down the bathroom’s door with a cricket bat after realizing he had shot Steenkamp, Roux claimed.
The one-time Olympic hero claimed he squeezed off four shots thinking an intruder had somehow gained entry to his home in a heavily guarded, gated community. But prosecutors insist he intentionally shot at Steenkamp – who was struck three times – when she locked herself in the bathroom after an argument turned violent.
Roux has also claimed that the screams that neighbors Charl Johnson and his wife Michelle Burger heard were actually those of Pistorius – whose high-pitched voice, he claimed, sounds like a woman’s when he’s stressed out.
During his cross-examination of Johnson, Roux said phone 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.
But Johnson and Burger, testifying for the prosecution, insisted they heard shots immediately after making a call to security at 3:16 a.m.
“There is only one thing you could have heard, because it coincides precisely,” Roux said to Johnson. “That was the time that [Pistorius] broke down the door (with the bat).”
Johnson replied, addressing the judge: “My lady, I am convinced the sound I heard was gunshots.”
Johnson also complained that he had been getting threatening messages since his cell phone number was read aloud in court.
“Oscar is not guilty. Why are you lying in court?” one voicemail said, according to Johnson.
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 was nicknamed the “Blade Runner” because of his carbon-fiber prosthetic blades.