ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
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Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee who made history last year by competing in the London Olympic Games, is in the headlines for a very different reason today. The South African runner and Paralympic athlete, known as the Blade Runner, is facing charges of murder. This, after his girlfriend was shot to death at his home in Pretoria early this morning.
NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF A NEWS CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Police have now confirmed there have previously been incidents of a domestic nature at Paralympian Oscar Pistorius' Pretoria home...
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: That was Local radio station 702, updating the news that Oscar Pistorius had been arrested in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The gold medal winner in the 2012 Paralympic Games had come to symbolize determination and athletic prowess as a track star, says seasoned South African sports journalist Mohamed Allie.
MOHAMED ALLIE: He's highly renowned and used as a role model for having overcome the trauma of having lost both legs, which were amputated below the knee before his first birthday, and using carbon-fiber prosthetic blades. Been known as the fastest man on no legs.
QUIST-ARCTON: Twenty-six-year-old Pistorius gained international fame. But earlier today, South African police spokeswoman, Brigadier Denise Beukes, gave these details about what is alleged to have happened at Pistorius's townhouse in the well-to-do Silverlakes neighborhood in the capital, Pretoria.
BRIGADIER DENISE BEUKES: At this stage, we can confirm that a young woman, a 30-year-old woman did die on the scene of gunshot wounds. A 26-year-old man has been arrested and has been charged with murder.
QUIST-ARCTON: Pistorius is being held in custody and is due to appear in court tomorrow, pending further investigations and forensic tests. His girlfriend, 30-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, was reportedly shot in the head and upper body and was declared dead by paramedics at his home. Police say they recovered a nine-millimeter pistol.
Steenkamp was a model and her emotional publicist, Sarit Tomlinson, told the BBC...
SARIT TOMLINSON: She was the kindest, sweetest human being. She really was an angel. She was compassionate. She was all about the people around her, always making people smile.
QUIST-ARCTON: Local South African media earlier reported that Pistorius may have mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder at his Pretoria home, which is in a high-security gated community. Spokeswoman Beukes denied that the police were the source of that report.
BEUKES: Our detectives have been on the scene. Our forensic investigators have been on the scene and the investigation is ongoing.
QUIST-ARCTON: Police revealed that they had been called in in the past to investigate domestic-related incidents at Pistorius's home.
South Africa has had one of the world's highest crime rates in recent years. Despite strict gun ownership laws, shootings reportedly claim more lives than traffic accidents each year. Campaigning for stricter gun control legislation, Adele Kirsten of Gun-Free South Africa gave this reaction to today's fatal shooting.
ADELE KIRSTEN: I am not at all saying whether it was intentional or non-intentional. Either way, it was preventable. And the key way that it was preventable is not to have had a gun in the home. Guns in the home put everyone at risk - and women in particular.
QUIST-ARCTON: But, as in the U.S., the debate rages on in South Africa about gun ownership, with many South Africans saying they have the right to bear firearms to protect themselves.
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.