PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame after a pistol was accidentally fired in a restaurant weeks before the Olympian fatally shot his girlfriend, a witness testified Wednesday.
The testimony by boxer Kevin Lerena relates to firearms charges against Pistorius, and raises questions about the character of a man who insists he accidentally shot dead Reeva Steenkamp in his home on Feb. 14 last year. Prosecutors allege the double-amputee sprinter murdered Steenkamp, his 29-year-old girlfriend.
Lerena said the restaurant shooting happened when he and Pistorius and two other friends were in a Johannesburg restaurant in January 2013. One friend, Darren Fresco, passed his gun to Pistorius under the table and told him that there was a bullet in the chamber, Lerena said. Then a shot went off, puncturing the floor near Lerena's foot, he said.
"There was just complete silence," said Lerena, who described being in shock and having blood where his toe was grazed in the incident. Then, he said, Pistorius apologized, saying: "Are you OK? Is everybody OK?"
Before the restaurant management approached the table, Lerena said, Pistorius asked Fresco to say he was responsible for the gunshot.
"'Just say it was you. I don't want any tension around me,'" Lerena remembered Pistorius saying. "'There's too much media hype around me.'"
Lerena said they paid the bill and left the restaurant and he never spoke about the incident. Two days after Pistorius shot Steenkamp, he said, he woke up to find over 100 missed calls on his telephone as media from around the world tried to contact him to ask about the gun incident.
Chief defense lawyer Barry Roux did not challenge Lerena's testimony that Pistorius asked a friend to "take the rap."
Pistorius, the world-famous athlete and first amputee to run at the Olympics, is charged with murder and three other offenses: Two relating to the shooting of a gun in public and another count of illegal possession of ammunition. He pleaded not guilty to all four charges.
The trial continues.