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April 13, 2014
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Publisher's Notebook: Wouldn't you ask first before you shot through the bathroom door?

I’m trying my best to believe this Blade Runner guy in South Africa who is on trial accused of shooting his girlfriend to death.

As a guy who keeps a gun near his bed, I’m aware of the consequences and responsibilities that come with that and, I gotta say, the Blade Runner leaves me scratching my head.

“He’s kidding, right?”

If you’re not like me and don’t follow shootings in South Africa because you have better things to do and can’t keep track of the shootings in the U.S., let alone around the world, here’s what happened, allegedly.

The Blade Runner, well known for running in the Olympics with no legs (he has artificial legs he uses to run that look like blades), is actually Oscar Pistorius. I was a huge fan because he had to fight to be allowed to compete because some thought his “blades” gave him an advantage.

“Not fair,” said those who were born with two perfectly good legs and wanted to ban Pistorius. “Those blades make him faster than he’d be if he had legs.”

Anyway, he had to hire a lawyer who convinced officials to allow him to run and he represented his country in both the 400 meter and 4x400 meter relay in the 2012 Olympics.

He was already a national celebrity, but the Olympics made him a national hero and international celebrity.

Who doesn’t like a guy who overcomes adversity and how does it get any cooler than losing your legs at 11 months old and going on to run in the Olympic games?

That’s what I thought.

As you can imagine, Pistorius had no problem getting girlfriends. When you are a celebrity, you don’t buy drinks and people want to be your friend. I know this only secondhand because I don’t have many friends and buy my own beer.

So Pistorius had a beautiful model for a girlfriend named Reeva Steenkamp and lots of endorsements that made him a millionaire. He had the world by the tail, in other words.

Then things got ugly.

According to Pistorius — and we must rely on his account of the events that Valentine’s Day night because Reeva Steenkamp is dead — he got up in the middle of the night to close the windows and move the fans inside.

He said he heard a noise in the bathroom near his bedroom and thought someone was trying to get into the house. He didn’t think it might be his girlfriend because he thought she was still in bed and didn’t see her get out of bed when he went to close the windows.

This is where I stopped to ponder the options.

“What would I do?” I wondered.

Well, for starters, I might check to see if my wife was still in bed. If she was I could cross her off the list of possible suspects who were making noise in the bathroom.

If the bed was empty, I’d probably guess she was in the bathroom. I hope she would allow me the same courtesy before reaching for the gun. I use the bathroom a lot at night and would hate to think she was reaching for the 9 mm every time I went potty.

Then I’d see if my kids were in the bathroom. For some reason they like my bathroom better than their own bathroom, so I’d probably … I don’t know … say something like, “Who’s in the bathroom?”

If they didn’t answer — and I don’t know why anyone would lie about being in a bathroom — I’d probably get a little more direct.

“I know somebody’s in the bathroom. Come out with your pants up, or I’m coming in!”

By then my wife would probably be awake, asking who I was talking to.

“There’s someone in the bathroom,” I’d tell her. “And they won’t say who.”

At that point I’d probably send her to go check on the kids, while I grabbed my 9 mm. We still had a way out, so whatever was in the bathroom was still no real threat. At that point I could even call 911, to let them know I thought someone was in my bathroom.

If a guy could call the cops on his cat, I should be fine calling about an intruder in my bathroom.

The Blade Runner allegedly skipped all of that, going straight for the gun. He didn’t check to see where his girlfriend was and instead fired four shots through the bathroom door.

Tragically, Reeva Steenkamp was behind the door and was shot and killed.

Pistorius said he was afraid and that he didn’t mean to kill her.

“He said what?”

“He said he didn’t mean to kill her and that he thought she was an intruder.”

“But he fired four shots. Didn’t he hear her scream after the first one?”

“Nope. He was scared. “

The guy who overcame all odds; who must have endured horrific pain and suffering to achieve a goal; who was a pillar of strength and a role model for anyone who has faced adversity was suddenly afraid of someone behind a locked bathroom door so he fired four shots through it?

Sorry, Oscar. I’m not buying.

In fact, it’s one of the most pathetic defenses I have ever heard and I’ve heard more than my share over my three decades in the news business.

If it wasn’t for his celebrity status the Blade Runner would already be serving his sentence in some South African prison. At the very least he’s guilty of gross negligence, but the chances are better that he’s a cold-blooded killer — allegedly.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or

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The News-Review Updated Apr 13, 2014 12:04AM Published Apr 13, 2014 12:04AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.