True crime and trial opinions from a layman's perspective
Next on the witness stand is Sean Rens. He is the Manager of the International Firearm Training Academy. He met Oscar in May 2012, through their mutual friend, Justin Devaris. Oscar had a great “love and enthusiasm” for guns, per Rens, and was looking to acquire more guns which he would be able to assist him with.
There was a particular gun that Oscar wanted, a Smith & Wesson 500 revolver. In addition there were five other guns he had ordered from Mr. Rens: .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, civilian version of a Vector .223 caliber assault rifle and three shotguns – a Mossberg, a Maverick, and a Winchester.
Here is a copy of the invoice that was created for these weapons in June of 2012.
Oscar needed a special collector’s license to own this many weapons and applied for licenses to own these guns on January 22, 2013. His applications were cancelled 4 days after he killed Reeva.
At the time of Reeva’s killing, Oscar was only licensed for one gun and owned one gun – a 9mm Taurus pistol.
Oscar was required to complete testing for gun competency and safety. Mr. Rens has the test with him in court and reads through the questions and Oscar’s subsequent answers.
The test gives many examples of what to do if an intruder enters your property, enters your home, steals your property, etc. all within your plain sight, and in all scenarios, unless the intruder has a weapon and is directly coming at you to attack you, you cannot use lethal force.
The answers that Oscar provided all clearly indicated that up until the time an intruder comes at you directly with a weapon, a person is not to use lethal force.
One specific example of the questions on the exam: “explain the legal requirements when using lethal force for private or self defense.” The answer: “the attack must be against you, it must be unlawful and it must be against a person”
And then the question that raises no doubt whatsoever that Oscar deliberately ignored everything he had been taught (if you are to believe his story): “list the 4 safety rules in order of importance”. The answer: “always point in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger, always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded, and always know your target and what lies beyond”
In some additional questions on the test it was illustrated again how Oscar was aware of the following gun rules: “security in a holster, unloaded when in storage, do not handle unnecessarily, never fire in to the air, use only the correct ammunition, know your target”. In court thus far, there has been testimony to prove that Oscar had broken every one of these safety rules on various occasions. One could make the assumption from this that he has no regard for safety or for the law.
Oscar and Mr. Rens saw each other approximately 10-12 times from 2012-2013, and they would often shoot together at the range. Mr. Rens was aware of Oscar’s shooting competency.
Mr. Rens relayed a story that Oscar shared with him about how one day he came home and heard the clothes dryer making a noise and he thought it was somebody in the house. He stated he went in to “recon” mode, which is where you take your gun out and go from room to room clearing each room until he was able to identify the noise in the laundry room.
Mr. Rens explained that this is what any person would do in this situation – investigate each room to make sure they know what the situation was. Not just start firing off rounds at unidentified noises.
Mr. Rens also testified that Oscar was very busy so any paperwork that they needed to complete would often be done at various locations. He recalls that Darren Fresco accompanied him on a few occasions, including the time he went to the home of John Bay (unsure of last name). This is the time that Oscar was with Darren and Samantha coming back from the Vaal River, for which he is facing a gun charge for shooting out of the sunroof. Nel is working to solidify Darren’s and Samantha’s testimonies about what happened that day. Roux has insinuated in his cross-exams that Oscar is going to deny this incident completely.
Roux’s cross-examination was extremely brief. He asks Mr. Rens if Oscar would have had the ability to aim higher up at a target from a short shooting distance, for instance to aim at a head. Mr. Rens says absolutely. He is aware of Oscar’s abilities and yes he could do that. My guess is that Roux is going to imply later in the defense presentation that Oscar’s bullets were fired low to aim away from any vital areas.
Roux also wants to know if in Mr. Rens’ opinion, are firearms collectors seen to be upstanding people or reckless people. Mr. Rens believes that they are typically upstanding people. There is no correlation in people who own many guns to being reckless, it’s usually the opposite.
In my opinion, this goes against Oscar. If Oscar is perceived as somebody who is fully trained on his weapons, knows how to use them and understands what they can do, then the incident in his house that night was not just sheer recklessness but rather something that was done deliberately. As I mentioned earlier, I am getting the impression that Oscar has very little regard for the law and does what he feels he wants to do, and believes he can get away with it.
Next up is warrant officer Bennie Van Staden. He is a police photographer. He has 8 years of experience as a photographer and 12 years in total at the local criminal center.
On February 14, 2013, he was on standby to photograph any crime scenes that needed photographing. He was at a different scene initially that night and got called off to go over to the Pistorius home. He arrived at 4:50am.
He explains how he first walked through the entirety of the home to get a feel for the scene. He then went in to the garage to take photos of Oscar. Oscar had washed his hands and face, therefore he was not able to do gun residue testing on the hands, only on the arms above the hands.
Van Staden took pics of Oscar’s body and his prosthetics, revealing some damage on the legs.
He then went outside to photograph the front of the home around 5:15am, and then back inside to begin photographing the inside scene and the deceased.
Most of the pics that I am posting here are in addition to the images that I posted from day 10 of the trial. Nel is noting the time that each photo was taken as they walk through the series of images together.
More images of the damage to the bedroom door.
Sunglasses display case and contents of the lower portion of the display. Air gun and baseball bat standing next to the display.
Blood on the carpet near the entrance to the bedroom.
The right side of the bed. The bullet magazine and it’s holder were found in the drawer of the nightstand on the right side of the bed. On the floor you can see a fan, a grey t-shirt, an iPad, and an additional iPad was found underneath the bed on this side. It also appears that one of the iPad covers was detached from the iPad seen in this photo. The bullet magazine and the holder were removed from the drawer for photographing.
There was some very early speculation after February 14, that steroids may have been involved due to some items found at the scene. Those items were later determined to be herbal supplements called Coenzyme Compositum. In these images, you can see pouches of syringes and supplements found on top of the dresser in the bedroom.
The duvet was found crumpled up on the floor in front of the bed when Van Staden began to photograph. He spotted a few drops of blood spatter on the duvet, which he took a photo of. He then spread out the duvet and found more droplets on the inside of the duvet.
There was also blood spatter found on the bedroom wall behind the bed. It was located on the left hand side just slightly above the head rest. You can see a white circle added in the photo to indicate the location. Ironically, or not, this is the same area where the gun holster was found. Why is there blood spatter on the duvet and next to the bed on the wall? According to Oscar’s story, he pulled Reeva out of the toilet room and carried her from the bathroom, out the bedroom door and down the stairs. These blood spatters are in locations that are not in that path. This has yet to be explained by the State.
We saw more images of the blood spatter and toilet door pieces throughout the bathroom.
The bullets had fragmented and particles went through the body. Since the body of Reeva was dragged out of the toilet room, it is likely that some of these particles were dragged along with her. One particle had hair entangled in it.
More images of the cricket bat, both front and back. You can see the notches on the end of the bat that were caused by hitting the door.
He next focused on the door and the toilet room, and the blood stains and bullet fragments found inside there. You can see two areas of the bathroom wall that were damaged by bullets. One by a direct hit (missed shot) and one caused by ricochet.
Photos of the outside backyard were taken. You can see Oscar’s two dogs outside where they were found on the morning of February 14.
These photos show the bathroom window as you look up from the back yard. You’ll notice Oscar’s dog standing just below. Right behind where the dog is standing is a pair of blue jeans that were found on the ground. These have not been explained to us yet. They look like a woman’s pair of jeans and you can see a thin white belt through the loops. Interesting that they were found just below the bathroom windows.
Ladders were found below the bedroom balcony.
They also discovered that there was a broken window pane in one of the downstairs windows. This is the window to the downstairs lounge area and it’s located to the bottom left of the bathroom windows. The hole in the window is indicated by a red circle on the photo. No broken glass was found at the scene, which indicates that this window had been broken at an earlier time. If Oscar was so concerned about security, wouldn’t this broken window have caused enough concern for him to repair it immediately, or at least board it up? Especially since it’s located on the ground floor.
Nel and Van Staden spent more time reviewing how the scene was preserved as the processing was taking place. When items needed to be moved, they were first measured and then marked. Roux spent a lot of time on his cross-examination bringing up the fact that other people were on the scene photographing while Van Staden is there. He wants to introduce doubt that the scene was handled with integrity.
Regarding the safe that was mentioned in earlier testimony, it was located in one of the wardrobes in the upstairs hallway to the bathroom. Van Staden was present when Oscar’s brother Carl and lawyer Oldwage opened the safe. The items inside were taken out, photographed, and given to Oldwage. The safe contained a box of .38 Special ammunition, some other personal items and medals. There also was another safe downstairs in the kitchen. A locksmith was called out to help them open that safe and they did remove contents from there as well.
In total, 15 albums were created. Album 1 shows the scene exactly as it was found upon arrival.
Albums 2-15 depict the scene in various stages of processing, as well as contain autopsy photos and additional evidence added by Vermeulen and Mangena.
It was revealed that Oscar does have an alarm system for his home which does include beams that detect movement outside.
Van Staden also took various photos to depict the lighting conditions both inside and outside the house from numerous different vantage points. Photos of the security system and the lamp posts outside the home were taken as well and included in the albums.
Van Staden confirms that he was on the scene photographing on February 14, 15, 16, 17, and on March 8, when they did the scene reconstruction.
Numerous measurements were taken at the crime scene. And measurements of Oscar (with and without his prosthetics) were also taken by a doctor. Van Staden was present when these measurements were taken and these photos have been included in the albums.
Photos of the neighborhood including aerials, depicting witness vantage points were taken and included in the albums.
Van Staden was also present for the autopsy and the post mortem/autopsy photos were included in the albums.
And then for the other gun-related charges against Oscar, Van Staden photographed Tashas Restaurant. He also took photos with Darren Fresco to depict the location where Oscar shot out of the sunroof of the car.
Court adjourned for the day.