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Man (Tampa Police Captain Curtis Reeves, Jr.) Accused In Theater Shooting Could Use Stand Your Ground As Defense

Man Accused in Theater Shooting Could Use Stand Your Ground as Defense

By: Associated Press News, CNN Email

News Release: Associated Press
July 9, 2014

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for a retired Tampa police captain accused of shooting a man in a movie theater raised the possibility of using a “stand your ground” defense at trial next year.

Curtis Reeves Jr. is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 13 shooting of Chad Oulson of Land O’Lakes.

Prosecutors said Oulson was shot in the chest during an argument about texting. Reeves’ attorneys say their client shot in self-defense and that using “stand your ground” to defend him client hadn’t been ruled out.

Florida’s “stand your ground law” says people not involved in illegal activity have the right to “stand their ground” and even use deadly force if they reasonably believe it’s necessary to avoid death or great bodily harm.


News Release: Associated Press
July 7, 2014

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — The trial for a retired Tampa police captain accused of murder in the January movie theater shooting of a fellow patron could happen as early as this fall.

A court hearing scheduled for Wednesday should settle the question of a trial date in the coming months for Curtis Reeves Jr., who is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 13 shooting of 43-year-old Chad Oulson of Land O’Lakes.

Oulson was shot in the chest during an argument over his refusal to stop texting his daughter’s babysitter during movie previews. Oulson’s wife, Nicole, suffered an injured left ring finger, which was grazed by the bullet. Reeves attorneys say their client shot in self-defense.

Reeves remains in the Pasco County jail after a judge denied his request for bail in February.


Associated Press News Release
By TAMARA LUSH

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — Records show that a retired police captain who reportedly shot a man in a movie theater because he was texting had sent a text message to his own son moments before the incident.

According to records released Thursday by prosecutors, Curtis Reeves texted his son, who was on his way to the theater, saying that he was already inside.

The 71-year-old Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Chad Oulson on Jan. 13.

Reeves is being held without bail in the Pasco County Jail. His attorneys say Reeves acted in self-defense. Reeves told police that the 43-year-old Oulson hit him in the face, possibly with a cellphone. Other witnesses, including Reeves’ wife, say they never saw Oulson strike Reeves.


Associated Press News Release
By TAMARA LUSH

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — A judge has ruled that all evidence can be made public in the case of a retired Tampa police captain who fatally shot a man in a movie theater after a dispute over texting.

During a hearing Wednesday in Pasco County Court, Judge Pat Siracusa made the ruling after the defense and prosecution said they had no objections.

Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Chad Oulson, who died in a Wesley Chapel movie theater on Jan. 13 after a dispute over texting.

In early February, the evidence was sealed from the public for 30 days so Reeves’ attorneys could review it and perhaps challenge all or parts of its release to the public. They had no challenges, largely because much of the information was released during a two-day bond hearing.


News Release: CNN

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic language that may not be suitable to all readers.

(CNN) — The 71-year-old ex-police officer accused of shooting dead a man inside a Florida movie theater won’t get the chance to go home — at least for now — after a judge Friday decided not to grant him bail.

Judge Pat Siracusa made his decision after two days of wrenching, evocative, at times seemingly contradictory testimony inside a Dade City, Florida, courtroom.

“The state did, in fact, meet their standard,” Siracusa said of prosecutors argument that Curtis Reeves shouldn’t be allowed to post bond. “And I am going to detain Mr. Reeves, pretrial. He will remain in custody.”

Reeves’ lawyer signaled his intention to appeal a decision that — while not unexpected, given this is a homicide case — he believes is unwarranted. The attorney, Richard Escobar, said that he’s optimistic about not only the appeal on bail, but that a jury of six citizens will side with his client.

“Mr. Reeves is truly an innocent man,” Escobar told reporters. “And we look forward to proving that at a jury trial at some point.”

The widow of the man that Reeves killed, meanwhile, applauded Siracusa’s decision.

“I’m just very happy and relieved,” Nicole Oulson said. “… I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision.”

Was it self-defense or an overreaction?

As Siracusa took pains to point out, his opting not to grant bail has nothing to do with his or others assessment of Reeves’ guilt or innocence. That won’t happen until trial.

The date for that hasn’t been set, though Siracusa did schedule the next pretrial hearing for March 12.

That falls on one day under two full months since Chad Oulson was shot dead inside the Grove 16 theater in the Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel.

Was the younger, more physically imposing Oulson killed in self-defense, as Reeves’ lawyer claims? Or did Reeves overreact — to the idea that Oulson was texting his toddler daughter as movie previews played — by taking out his gun inside the theater and firing, as the prosecution argues?

The bail hearing, which began Wednesday and resumed Friday after a day off, served almost as a mini-trial in itself.

Both sides called witnesses, then often strongly challenged those put on the stand by the other side.

Reeves’ daughter, Jennifer Shaw, testified that her father was supportive and even-keeled, having never erupted in anger at a stranger from her recollection.

The prosecution called a number of people who’d been in the Florida theater the afternoon of January 13.

Charles Cummings talked about overhearing Reeves and Oulson talking, and at one point, the latter said, “I’m just texting my 2-year-old daughter.” Soon after that, a “very agitated” Reeves left the theater, then returned a few minutes later.

At that point, a fairly calm Oulson — according to Mark Douglas Turner, a retired Air Force veteran who worked as a clandestine officer — asked aloud whether he could check a voice mail from his daughter’s babysitter.

The situation devolved after more words were exchanged. Alan Hamilton, an off-duty Sumter County sheriff’s corporal, said he heard Oulson say, “I am trying to text my f**king daughter, if you don’t mind” — using graphic language that Reeves’ lawyer said suggested Oulson was angry and threatening.

Popcorn flew in Reeves’ direction soon thereafter.

“And almost immediately,” recalled Turner, who said Oulson threw the bag, “the gun comes out and there are shots fired.”

Reeves to police: Oulson ‘scared the crap out of me’

Hamilton testified that, soon thereafter, Reeves’ wife told her husband “that was no cause to shoot anyone.”

Reeves responded by pointing his finger at her and saying, according to Hamilton, “You shut your f**king mouth and don’t say another word.”

On Friday, those in the Dade City courtroom got to hear from Reeves himself — not because he took the stand, but because audio of his interview with police was played in court.

During that interview, Reeves told police he had “reason to believe (Oulson) was going to kick my ass” after Reeves confronted the 43-year-old Navy veteran over his texting during the previews to “Lone Survivor.”

Reeves and his wife both told police that Oulson began using foul language, and Reeves left to talk to a theater manager. When he returned, Oulson stood up and turned to confront Reeves, he said.

“I see that he’s very explosive, unnecessarily,” Reeves told police. “It scared the crap out of me.”

Oulson edged toward Reeves — and “he’s virtually on top of me” — and Reeves told him either “no, no, no” or “whoa, whoa, whoa,” he couldn’t remember which, he told the police interrogator.

“He hit me with something. I assume it was his fist,” Reeves told police. “I think he had a cell phone in his hand because I saw the blur of the screen. … My face went sideways. My glasses came partially off.”

In her own interview with police, Vivian Reeves backed much of her husband’s story, spelling out the f-word for police as she described Oulson’s language during the altercation.

Asked, though, whether she saw Chad Oulson strike Curtis Reeves, she replied no — though she said it’s what her husband told her after the shooting.

The same went for the various theater witnesses who testified earlier for the prosecution. None of whom said that they saw Reeves getting hit by anything beyond perhaps a bag or some kernels of popcorn before he opened fire.

Surveillance video captures theater shooting

Beyond hearing from various witnesses, the public — thanks to the gathered media — got their own glimpse of what happened inside that movie theater, thanks to surveillance video.

The jumpy, grainy footage shows Reeves return to his seat at 1:26:19 p.m., according to the video’s time stamp. Six seconds later, Reeves appears to lean forward, but only for a second.

At 1:26:30 p.m., the video stops — likely because the motion sensors weren’t activated, according to previous testimony in Reeves’ bail hearing this week — but it starts recording again five seconds later.

That’s when a hand extends in front of Reeves, from the seat where victim Chad Oulson was reportedly sitting, and appears to snatch something from Reeves — the defense has repeatedly said Oulson threw popcorn — and throws it into Reeves’ face.

Reeves’ right hand, the one Reeves told police he used to shoot Oulson, thrusts forward at 1:26:37 p.m. A strange dust falls in front of the surveillance video lens as theater patrons begin walking over to the area where Reeves remains seated.

It’s the row behind where a mortally wounded Oulson — after stumbling then collapsing on another moviegoer — is taking his last breaths.


Associated Press News Release

PORT RICHEY, Fla. (AP) — Some 1,000 motorcyclists are raising money to help raise money for the family of a man who was fatally shot during an argument over texting in a Florida theater.

The Chad Oulson Memorial Run took place Sunday in Port Richey.

Friends say 43-year-old Oulson loved dirt bikes and motocross. He left behind a 2-year-old daughter and a wife, but didn’t have life insurance. In the days after the shooting, friends established a trust fund to help the family.

The Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/1fSq4TI) reports organizers of the fundraiser wore bright green shirts with the number 28, which Oulson wore in motocross events.

Oulson’s wife Nicole and daughter Alexis were at the finish line to greet the bikers.

Retired police officer Curtis Reeves faces second-degree murder charges for shooting Oulson.


Associated Press News Release

By TAMARA LUSH

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — The widow of the man fatally shot in a Florida movie theater during a dispute over texting says she didn’t see her husband or the retired police officer strike each other before the shooting.

A recorded police interview with Nicole Oulson was played Friday during a bail hearing for Curtis Reeves. He is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Chad Oulson.

Prosecutors also played an interview with Reeves from Jan. 13, the day of the shooting. He said he was scared and shot in self-defense. But he also said if he had to do it over again, it would have never happened.

Nicole Oulson was interviewed from a Tampa-area hospital. Authorities say she was shot in the hand by the same bullet that killed her husband.


News Release: CNN

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic language that may not be suitable to all readers.

(CNN) — Curtis Reeves and the widow of the man he killed inside a movie theater both shed tears Wednesday inside a Florida courtroom, as lawyers for both sides called witnesses to support their arguments on whether the 71-year-old gunman should get bail.

Along with such raw emotion, the Dade City hearing was flush with vivid details from witnesses about what happened early in the afternoon of January 13 inside a theater in the Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel.

They recounted how, after Reeves told management about Chad Oulson texting during previews, the men exchanged words. Oulson then allegedly tossed his bag of popcorn at Reeves, who fired a single, fatal gunshot moments later.

He’s been jailed ever since, without bail, on a second-degree murder charge.

Wednesday’s testimony and the cross-examinations were so extensive that the day ended without a decision from Judge Pat Siracusa. Instead, the hearing will resume at 10 a.m. Friday with testimony from more prosecution witnesses and the playing of surveillance video and audio.

Several people testified Wednesday as character witnesses for Reeves.

The most powerful of them was his daughter, Jennifer Shaw.

In addition to discussing her father’s financial holdings — including a house valued at $186,000 as well as $22,000 in bank accounts — Shaw spoke of how her father had always been involved and supportive. That includes helping with her 2-year-old daughter and after she moved in with her parents after splitting from her husband.

Shaw said she didn’t recall her father — who became visibly emotional with his daughter on the stand — getting angry with strangers, said his temperament hasn’t changed in recent years and insisted that he doesn’t pose a danger to the community.

And after being asked whether she had any doubt her father would show up for court if he received bail, Shaw answered unequivocally: “No doubt at all.”

Shaw said she’d long “assumed” that her father, a Navy veteran and retired police officer with a concealed weapons permit, carried a gun with him at all times. But should he come to the family’s Brooksville home, there would be no guns around: Shaw testified that all firearms and ammunition in that house were removed the day after the theater shooting.

The prosecution then began presenting its own slate of witnesses, starting with 68-year-old Charles Cummings.

He sat a few seats down from Oulson that January day in the row in front of Reeves. During the previews, Cummings said he heard Reeves and Oulson talking, and at one point, the latter said, “I’m just texting my 2-year-old daughter.”

Soon after that, a “very agitated” Reeves left the theater then returned a few minutes later and again addressed Oulson.

Moviegoers recounted what happened next.

Mark Douglas Turner — who spent 27 years in the Air Force, including time as a clandestine officer who worked in China — recalled a relatively calm Oulson saying, “Do you mind, I’ve got a voice mail from my daughter’s babysitter? Do you mind I check to see if my daughter’s alright?”

The atmosphere changed considerably soon after that. While witnesses did not recount what Reeves said, Cummings said that, whatever it was, “I felt Oulson had enough.”

Alan Hamilton, a corporal with the Sumter County sheriff’s office who was taking in a movie with his wife, said he heard Oulson saying, at one point, “I am trying to text my f**king daughter, if you don’t mind” — using graphic language that Reeves’ lawyer said suggested Oulson was angry and threatening.

The popcorn flew in Reeves’ direction soon thereafter.

“And almost immediately,” recalled Turner, who said Oulson threw the bag, “the gun comes out and there are shots fired.”

Oulson then stumbled and said, “I can’t believe he shot me,” before falling on Cummings’ son, the witness recalled. A nurse who also happened to be in theater then testified — as Oulson’s widow, Nicole, wiped away tears — about unsuccessful efforts to save his life.

According to Turner, Reeves said, “Throw popcorn in my face.”

Hamilton said that right after the shooting, he acted quickly to take the gun from Reeves — who was sitting, as he’d been during the shooting — and subdue him.

Before more authorities arrived, Reeves’ wife told her husband “that was no cause to shoot anyone,” according to Hamilton, the law enforcement officer who was then off-duty.

Reeves responded by pointing his finger at her and saying, according to Hamilton, “You shut your f**king mouth and don’t say another word.”

The off-duty corporal said that at one point, Reeves pushed back his glasses and said out loud, “Holy f**k, what have I done?”

Defense attorney Richard Escobar challenged each of these prosecution witnesses. For some, he said their recollections may be cloudy due to witnesses’ vantage points, eyesight or the theater’s dim lighting. Escobar also sought to portray the larger, younger Oulson as imposing compared to Reeves.

His client, Reeves, remains behind bars pending the outcome of this hearing.

CNN’s Faith Karimi and Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.


Associated Press News Release

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (AP) — A former Tampa police captain charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of another man at a Pasco County movie theater is scheduled for a bond hearing.

A judge will decide whether to grant 71-year-old Curtis Reeves bail on Wednesday. Reeves is accused of killing 43-year-old Chad Oulson after getting into an argument over texting in the theater.

Judge Pat Siracusa could also rule whether video showing the altercation and shooting can be made public.

An external hard drive containing hours of surveillance video was physically handed over to defense attorneys Tuesday during a hearing regarding the video evidence showing the January shooting.


News Release: Associated Press News
February 4, 2014

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors have handed over an external hard drive containing hours of surveillance video from a movie theater where a retired Tampa police officer is accused of shooting and killing another man during an argument over texting.

Attorneys for 71-year-old Curtis Reeves received the hard drive Tuesday morning. A Pasco County judge could rule during a Wednesday bond hearing whether the video will be made available to the public.

The footage is expected to show Reeves entering the Wesley Chapel theater Jan. 13 to watch “Lone Survivor” and the shooting of 43-year-old Chad Oulsen and the wounding of his wife.

Prosecutors initially were unwilling to hand over the video. They claimed their office was not equipped to turn around copies of the video so quickly.

Reeves is being held without bail, charged with second-degree murder.


News Release: Associated Press News
January 24, 2014

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (AP) — In a 911 recording, a caller present when a man was fatally shot in a Florida movie theater tells the dispatcher that patrons were trying to save the victim with CPR and pleads for paramedics to arrive.

Pasco County officials released the 11-minute, 27-second phone call Friday. Chad Oulson and his wife, Nicole, were in the Wesley Chapel movie theater Jan. 13, about to watch “Lone Survivor,” when Chad was fatally shot during an argument with another man.

Curtis Reeves, a 71-year-old retired police officer, is charged with the second-degree murder and is being held without bail.

The call released Friday appears to be from an off-duty nurse in the theater that day. The nurse tells a dispatcher that the victim’s pulse was weak, and “we need an ambulance, stat.”


Associated Press News Release
January 22, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The wife of a man who was shot and killed during an argument over texting at a movie theater says her “whole world just got shattered in a million pieces.”

Nicole Oulson cried during a news conference Wednesday at her attorney’s office in Tampa.

She says she’s recovering from being shot in the hand, and is focusing on their nearly 2-year-old daughter.

She and her husband, Chad Oulson, were in a movie theater Jan. 13 when he was shot during an argument with another man.

Curtis Reeves, a 71-year-old retired police officer, is charged with the second-degree murder and is being held without bail.

Friends of the couple say Chad Oulson was texting their daughter’s baby sitter when the fight erupted during movie previews.


Associated Press News Release
January 22, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The wife of a man who was shot and killed after an argument over texting at a movie theater held a news conference..

Nicole Oulson held a news conference Wednesday morning at her attorney’s office in downtown Tampa.

She and her husband were in a movie theater on Jan. 13 when her husband got into an argument with another man.

Curtis Reeves, a 71-year-old retired police officer, is charged with the second-degree murder of Chad Oulson and is being held without bail.

Nicole Oulson was shot in the hand.

Friends of the Oulsons say that Chad was texting the babysitter caring for the couple’s 22-month-old daughter during the movie previews when the altercation occurred.


Associated Press News Release

LAND O’LAKES, Fla. (AP) — A Tampa Bay-area man shot and killed during a dispute over texting at a movie theater is being remembered as a family man and fun-loving friend.

More than 300 mourners attended the funeral Saturday for Chad Oulson, requiring ushers to bring out folding chairs and open the choir loft at the Land O’Lakes Church of God.

The parent company of the Wesley Chapel movie theater where Oulson was shot Monday sent an arrangement of white lilies to the church for the funeral.

Oulson’s wife was shot in the hand during the dispute at the Pasco County theater. She did not speak at the funeral, but she hugged mourners with her left hand heavily bandaged.

Retired police officer Curtis Reeves has been charged with second-degree murder and held without bail.


Associated Press News Release

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — A judge has ordered that a 71-year-old retired police officer be held without bond on a charge that he shot a man dead in a Florida movie theater.

Curtis Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Monday. Reeves had his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon.

A Pasco County Sheriff’s affidavit said Reeves told authorities that “he was in fear of being attacked” during the confrontation.

Officials say that before firing his gun, Reeves asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.

A deputy’s report released Tuesday says Reeves used a .380 handgun to shoot Oulson in the chest.


Associated Press News Release
By TAMARA LUSH

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — The 71-year-old retired police officer accused of shooting a man in a Florida movie theater is scheduled for his first appearance in court.

Curtis Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in Monday’s death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson. Reeves’ hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Pasco County Sheriff’s officials say that before firing his gun, Reeves asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.

A deputy’s report released Tuesday says Reeves used a .380 handgun to shoot Oulson in the chest. Reeves told a deputy that he was in fear of being attacked.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

An argument over texting in a Florida movie theater ended with a retired Tampa police captain fatally shooting a man sitting in front of him, authorities said.

The former police captain, Curtis Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder. It’s not immediately clear whether he has retained an attorney.

“Somebody throws popcorn. I’m not sure who threw the popcorn,” said Charles Cummings, who, as a birthday treat, was about to watch the movie “Lone Survivor” at The Grove 16 Theater on Monday.

“And then bang, he was shot.”

Pasco County Sheriff’s officials said the shooting happened when Reeves asked 43-year-old Chad Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half hour north of downtown Tampa.

Reeves and his wife were sitting behind Oulson and his wife. Oulson told Reeves he was texting with his 3-year-old daughter, Cummings said.

“It ended almost as quickly as it started,” said sheriff’s spokesman Doug Tobin. The sheriff’s office says an off-duty Sumter County deputy detained Reeves until police arrived.

Cummings and his son Alex — who both had blood on their clothes as they walked out of the theater — told a group of reporters Monday afternoon the show was still in previews when the two couples started arguing.

Cummings said the man in the back row — later identified as Reeves — got up and left the auditorium, presumably to get a manager. But he came back after a few minutes, without a manager and appearing upset. Moments later, the argument between the two men resumed, and the man in the front row stood up.

Officials said Oulson asked Reeves if he reported him to management for using his phone.

Cummings said the men started raising their voices and popcorn was thrown. Authorities said Reeves took out a gun, and Oulson’s wife put her hand over her husband, and that’s when Reeves fired his weapon, striking Nichole Oulson in the hand and her husband in the chest.

“I can’t believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie,” Cummings said. “I can’t believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn. Over a cellphone.”

Cummings, who said he was a combat Marine in Vietnam, said Oulson fell onto him and his son.

“Blood started coming out of his mouth,” said Alex Cummings. “It was just a very bad scene.”

Charles Cummings said his son went to call 911, while Cummings and another patron who claimed to a nurse began performing CPR on the victim.

A man sitting next to the shooter grabbed the gun out of his hand, and the suspect did not attempt to get away, Cummings said.

Oulson and his wife were taken by ambulance to a Tampa-area hospital, where the Chad Oulson died, Tobin said. His wife’s injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said in a news release that Reeves was a captain when he retired from the department in 1993. She added that he was instrumental in establishing the agency’s first tactical response team. After he retired, Reeves worked security for the Busch Gardens theme park and was on the board of a neighboring county’s Crime Stoppers organization. Reeves’ son also is a Tampa officer, police said.

——

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush.

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