(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius testified Wednesday that he didn't "purposefully" fire his gun four times killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp -- that the gunfire was an accident.
Pistorius' statement came during the first day of a withering cross examination by prosecutor Gerrie Nel who tore into the Blade Runner's often emotional account of how he claims to have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar. The legless athlete could be facing at least 25 years in prison if convicted.
"What did you do?" Nel asked early in his cross examination. "You killed Reeva Steenkamp, that's what you did."
"I made a mistake," Pistorius repeated several times in a soft voice.
"You made a mistake?" Nel fired back. "You killed a person. You shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp. Why don't you take responsibility for that?"
The prosecutor asked Pistorius about the term "zombie stopper," referring to video aired by Sky News earlier this year in which Pistorius is seen firing at a watermelon. As the fruit explodes, whoops of joy can be heard followed by Pistorius' voice saying, "It's not as soft as brains, but f..k, it's a zombie stopper."
Nel then showed a close-up photo of Steenkamp's head wound, instructing Pistorius to look at it.
"You know the same happened to Reeva's head. It exploded... It had the exact same effect, the bullet that went into her head," Nel said.
Pistorius, now sobbing, replied, "I remember ... my fingers touched her head. I do not have to look at a picture."
A recess was taken so Pistorius could compose himself, and when testimony resumed, Pistorius insisted that he accidentally fired the four shots through his locked bathroom door. He had previously testified that he feared an intruder was in his bathroom during the night and that he was "overcome" with fear.
"I did not purposefully fire the shots through the door," he said Wednesday, saying the shooting was an accident.
"The accident was that I discharged my firearm because I believed an intruder was coming to attack me... The discharge was accidental," Pistorius said.
"Before thinking, out of fear, I had fired four shots," he said, sniffing back tears.
Nel snapped that Pistorius was only getting emotional because the questions were difficult.
"My life is on the line. Of course I'm thinking about the consequences of my answers," Pistorius said.
"And Reeva doesn't have life anymore," Nel fired back.
Before the cross examination began, Pistorius concluded his tearful, often sobbing testimony, of what happened the night he shot Steenkamp.
He described using a cricket bat to bash his way into the bathroom and holding Steenkamp in his arms and trying to carry her out of the bathroom and downstairs.
“I was sitting on the floor with my back against the wall … I couldn’t pick her up,” he said.
“I did not intend to kill Reeva, My Lady, or anybody else,” he told Judge Thokozile Masipa, who will decide the case.
Pistorius said he cradled Steenkamp's body as she bled from her wounds. He phoned Johan Stander, a friend who lived nearby, asking him to come and help, he said. He next called 911 crews.
“I could see she was breathing. She was struggling to breathe,” Pistorius said.
He eventually picked up Steenkamp, but later put her down, holding his hand on her hip to try and stop the bleeding.
“I just sat there with her and waited for the ambulance to arrive,” he said. “I felt helpless, I wanted to take her to the hospital.”
By the time paramedics arrived, Steenkamp was dead, Pistorius said.
“I stood a couple of meters away from them. The paramedic lady came to me and said she’d like to inform me Reeva had passed,” he said, taking long pauses between his sentences, his shoulders hunched.
Pistorius said that after the police arrived, they asked him to stay in the kitchen, so he sat on the floor there, crying. He asked the police for permission to wash his hands because the smell of his girlfriend's blood was making him vomit. Later, he asked the police to take whatever photos they needed so he could also take off his blood-soaked clothes.
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