Particularly jarring for firearms instructors and legal experts is that Pistorius testified that he shot at a closed toilet door, fearing but not knowing for certain that a nighttime intruder was on the other side. Instead of an intruder, Pistorius' girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was in the toilet cubicle. Struck by three of four shots that Pistorius fired from a 9 mm pistol, she died within minutes. Prosecutors charged Pistorius with premeditated murder, saying the shooting followed an argument between the two. Pistorius said it was an accident.
South Africa has stringent laws regulating the use of lethal force for self-protection. In order to get a permit to own a firearm, applicants must not only know those rules but must demonstrate proficiency with the weapon and knowledge of its safe handling, making it far tougher to legally own a gun in South Africa than many other countries where a mere background check suffices.
Pistorius took such a competency test for his 9 mm pistol and passed it, according to the South African Police Service's National Firearms Center. Pistorius' license for the 9 mm pistol was issued in September 2010. The Olympic athlete and Paralympic medalist should have known that firing blindly, instead of at a clearly identified target, violates basic gun-handling rules, firearms and legal experts said.
"You can't shoot through a closed door," said Andre Pretorius, president of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council, a regulatory body for South African firearms instructors. "People who own guns and have been through the training, they know that shooting through a door is not going to go through South African law as an accident."
"There is no situation in South Africa that allows a person to shoot at a threat that is not identified," Pretorius added. "Firing multiple shots, it makes it that much worse. ...It could have been a minor — a 15-year-old kid, a 12-year-old kid — breaking in to get food."
The Pistorius family, through Arnold Pistorius, uncle of the runner, has said it is confident that the evidence will prove that Steenkamp's death in the predawn hours of Feb. 14 was "a terrible and tragic accident."
In an affidavit to the magistrate who last Friday freed him on bail, Pistorius said he believed an intruder or intruders had gotten into his US$560,000 (€430,000) two-story house, in a guarded and gated community with walls topped by electrified fencing east of the capital, Pretoria, and were inside the toilet cubicle in his bathroom. Believing he and Steenkamp "would be in grave danger" if they came out, "I fired shots at the toilet door" with the pistol that he slept with under his bed, he testified.
Criminal law experts said that even if the prosecution fails to prove premeditated murder, firing several shots through a closed door could bring a conviction for the lesser but still serious charge of culpable homicide, a South African equivalent of manslaughter covering unintentional deaths through negligence.
Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood, who specializes in firearm law, said South African legislation allows gun owners to use lethal force only if they believe they are facing an immediate, serious and direct attack or threat of attack that could either be deadly or cause grievous injury.
According to Pistorius' own sworn statement read in court, he "did not meet those criteria," said Hood, who is also the spokesman for the South African Gun Owners' Association.
"If he fired through a closed door, there was no threat to him. It's as simple as that," he added. "He can't prove an attack on his life ... In my opinion, at the very least, he is guilty of culpable homicide."
The Associated Press emailed a request for comment to Vuma, a South African reputation management firm hired by the Pistorius family to handle media questions about the shooting.
The firm replied: "Due to the legal sensitivities around the matter, we cannot at this stage answer any of your questions as it might have legal implications for a case that still has to be tried in a court of law." Vuma said on Monday it referred the AP's questions to Pistorius' legal team, which by Tuesday had not replied.
Culpable homicide covers unintentional deaths ranging from accidents with no negligence, like a motorist whose brakes fail, killing another road user, "to where it verges on murder or where it almost becomes intentional," said Hood. Sentences — ranging from fines to prison — are left to courts to determine and are not set by fixed guidelines.
The tough standards for legally acquiring a gun were instituted in part because of a wave of weapons purchases after the end of racist white rule in 1994, said Rick De Caris, a former legal director in the South African police. Under South Africa's white-minority apartheid regime, gun owners often learned how to handle firearms during military service. Many of the new gun owners had little or no firearms training, which brought tragic results, De Caris said.
"People were literally shooting themselves when cleaning a firearm," said De Caris, who helped draft the Firearms Control Act of 2000.
Prospective gun owners must now take written exams that include questions on the law, have to show they can safely handle and shoot a gun and are required to hit a target the size of a glossy magazine in 10 of 10 shots from seven meters (23 feet), said Pretorius of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council.
In his affidavit, Pistorius said he wasn't wearing his prosthetic limbs "and felt extremely vulnerable" after hearing noise from the toilet.
"I grabbed my 9 mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom, I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch-dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed," he testified.
Legal experts said they are puzzled why Pistorius apparently didn't first fire a warning shot to show the supposed intruder he was armed. Also unanswered is why, after he heard noise in his bathroom that includes the toilet cubicle, Pistorius still went toward the bathroom — toward the perceived danger — rather than retreat back into his bedroom.
"He should have tried to get out of the situation," said Hood, the attorney.
Investigators believe Jackson was killed in the suspect's north city home, not far from where her body was found stuffed in the trunk of her own car. The paper reports that the suspect's current girlfriend lives in the apartment building where Jackson's baby was found.
23-year-old Oundre Akins allegedly killed the two employees during a robbery. Akins decided this week, to waive a jury trial and will allow the judge to decide his guilt or innocence. In exchange for that move, prosecutors took the death penalty off the table.
Prosecutors say Akins' brother, Anthony Akins was also involved in the crime. Anthony had murder charges reinstated after he refused to testify against his brother, and prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty is he is convicted.
BLOOMFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Two Southeast Missouri men are charged with first-degree murder in the death of a man whose body was found in a truck in a fast-food restaurant parking lot.
Stoddard County prosecuting attorney Russ Oliver says 29-year-old Matt Cook and 45-year-old Glen Scott Evans, both of Dexter, were charged Sunday in the death of 34-year-old Sean Crow of Bernie. Crow's body was found in a truck in Advance last Wednesday.
The Southeast Missourian reports the men were also charged with robbery and armed criminal action. They are being held in Stoddard County Jail.
Online court records do not show that either man has a lawyer.
Further details about the crime and cause of death have not been released.
Prosecutors have charged with 25-year-old Anthony Primm and 24-year-old Bernard Eric Wilson III with second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. Both are being held in St. Louis County Jail on $500,000 cash bail. Online court records don't list lawyers for either men.
Prosecutors claim Primm entered the home through an attic vent and is accused of taking various items from the home when Hutchinson was shot.
The prosecutor said Tuesday that Pistorius shot 29 year old Reeva Steenkamp four times through the bathroom door of his home in a guarded and gated complex in the South African capital, Pretoria. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court the door had been broken open.
The family of the 26 year old Paralympian and Olympic athlete says police evidence will show there should be no murder charge in the Valentine's Day shooting.
Pistorius, in a gray suit, blue shirt and tie appeared grim and solemn in court. He nodded after the chief magistrate asked if he was well.
Mark Woodworth walked out of the Livingston County jail at midday Friday and repeatedly said he was overwhelmed by the prospect of his new freedom. He thanked his friends and relatives for their support, hours after a judge's order releasing him on a $50,000 bond.
Woodworth has been serving a life sentence in the fatal shooting of Cathy Robertson, the wife of his father's farming partner. His latest conviction was thrown out in January when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled state prosecutors had failed to share evidence with Woodworth that could have helped his defense.
Attorney General Chris Koster quickly announced he would try Woodworth again.
Charges have been filed against George Bricking Jr for the 1995 murder of Christine Foster. Bricking had been arrested in '95 but a grand jury determined there was not enough evidence to file charges.
The task force also arrested Carlos Garrett for the 1989 murder of a 16-year-old girl earlier this week.
Thirty-five-year-old Rondias Webb waived the hearing Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court. He is charged in the Nov. 17 shooting death of 36-year-old Monica Webb.
Prosecutors say Monica Webb was shot inside the home where she had moved to get away from her husband. Police say Rondias Webb shot himself after shooting his wife.
The Joplin Globe reports Monica Webb had obtained a protection order against her husband in September after he was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault at an apartment they had shared. Two weeks before her shooting, Webb reported that her husband had violated the protection order.
Capacity Relations talent management firm said 29 year old model Reeva Steenkamp was the victim of the shooting.
Police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told The Associated Press that officers received a call around 3 a.m. saying there had been a shooting at the 26-year-old double-amputee runner's home in a gated housing complex in the capital, Pretoria. A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius, who is to appear in court later Thursday.
South African media speculated that Pistorius may have mistaken the young woman for an intruder.
Steenkamp tweeted her excitement about Valentine's Day hours before the shooting.