PRETORIA, South Africa – 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 at Pistorius’ villa in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius.
What sparked the predawn 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.”
Pistorius made history in the London Games when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics.
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 today.
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.