Pistorius Story "Understandable:" Former Childhood Friend

"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius is free awaiting trial in death of model Reeva Steenkamp

By Nicole Gonzales and R. Stickney
|  Friday, Feb 22, 2013  |  Updated 7:34 AM PDT
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Pistorius Story "Understandable:" Former Childhood Friend

A San Diego man who knew “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius as a child recalls electric fences, 8-foot walls and guard dogs as a normal way of life in the suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Pistorius, who last year became the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics, awaits trial in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the predawn hours of Feb. 14.

The athlete says he shot her accidentally, thinking she was an intruder in his house.

A magistrate in South Africa granted bail Friday ruling Pistorious could go free while awaiting trial.

Nick Peel attended the same primary school as Pistorius and now lives in San Diego. He spoke with NBC 7 San Diego exclusively about what it was like growing up in the same community where homes had extravagant alarm systems.

“In a way you're a prisoner. You grow up almost being a prisoner in your own home because of the threat of intrusion,” Peel said of the suburbs in Johannesburg.

In his opinion Pistorius could be telling the truth about the shooting death of his girlfriend,

“It's understandable at least that he may have rushed to judgment and shot first and be willing to answer questions later,” Peel said.

Pistorious was a fun-loving person growing up, not a criminal in the making Peel remembered.

Prosecutors say the shooting followed a loud argument between the two. They say he intended to kill her, and they've charged him with premeditated murder.

“The Oscar I knew growing up as a child up until our teen years. He was not a killer,” Peel said. “ Certainly not capable of murder in the first degree.”

Peel said it’s devastating to see the national hero and childhood friend sobbing and weeping every day.

“There's a huge disconnect to what we knew Oscar to be even a year ago as the champion representing South Africa with so much pride to where he is… the situation he's found himself in now,” Peel said.

Bail was set at 1 million rand ($113,000), with $11,300 in cash and proof that the rest is available. The magistrate said Pistorius must hand over his passports and also turn in any other guns that he owns. Pistorius also cannot leave the district of Pretoria without the permission of his probation officer, Nair said.

The double-amputee Olympian's next court appearance was set for June 4.

The magistrate also ruled that he could not return to his home, where the killing of Steenkamp took place.

Pistorius is known as the Blade Runner because of the high-tech artificial legs he uses.
 

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