Retired cop who fatally shot man in movie theater says 'he was in fear of being attacked'

The men had argued over texting

Curtis Reeves appears via video conference before Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper in Wesley Chapel, Fla. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Tepper ordered Reeves, 71, held without bond on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Monday. An argument over texting in a movie theater ended with Reeves, a retired police captain fatally shooting Oulson, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Brendan Fitterer)

Curtis Reeves appears via video conference before Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper in Wesley Chapel, Fla. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. Tepper ordered Reeves, 71, held without bond on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Monday. An argument over texting in a movie theater ended with Reeves, a retired police captain fatally shooting Oulson, authorities said. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Brendan Fitterer)

Video from NBC-2
Authorities stand outside Cobb theater after a shooting in Wesley Chapel, Fla., Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Authorities say a retired Tampa police officer has been charged with fatally shooting a man during an argument over cellphone use at the theater. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Cliff Mcbride)

Authorities stand outside Cobb theater after a shooting in Wesley Chapel, Fla., Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Authorities say a retired Tampa police officer has been charged with fatally shooting a man during an argument over cellphone use at the theater. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Cliff Mcbride)

UPDATE:

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — Chad Oulson was described by friends as a man who loved dirt bikes and his baby daughter. Curtis Reeves was a retired Tampa police officer with numerous commendations who liked riding his motorcycle with his wife.

The men's lives collided in a movie theater altercation that left Oulson dead and Reeves in jail. Oulson was texting his daughter's daycare, friends said, and Reeves got mad. Authorities said Reeves shot and killed Oulson with a handgun after the men exchanged words.

"He must have just snapped," neighbor Joe D'Andrea said of Reeves, describing him as friendly, "stand-up" guy. "I'm trying to put all of this together."

Reeves' personnel files from the police department show he led other agencies in gun safety training and received numerous letters of commendation for his leadership.

Still, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said Tuesday: "It didn't matter what he had done previously in his life. You don't shoot someone over a texting incident."

During Reeves' first court appearance Tuesday, Judge Lynn Tepper ordered the 71-year-old held without bond on a second-degree murder charge pending a bond hearing.

Pasco County Sheriff's officials say Reeves initially asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.

Sheriff's Detective Allen Proctor wrote that Reeves spoke to Oulson during the movie previews, then got up and informed management.

When Reeves returned to his seat "additional words were exchanged" and Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, the report said.

After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that's when he removed a .380 caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he "was in fear of being attacked."

The sheriff said at a news conference that Reeves' son — who was off duty from his job as a Tampa officer — was walking into the theater when the shooting happened. Nocco said Reeves briefly struggled with an off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun was jammed and unable to fire again.

Pasco Sgt. Steve Greiner was among the first officers in the theater. When asked about Reeves' demeanor, Greiner replied: "He was very calm. He was seated in the chair, looking at the screen."

At the hearing, Judge Lynn Tepper said she found the evidence significant enough to warrant the no bond order.

Reeves faces life in prison if convicted. He only spoke once during his court appearance, to say "yes, ma'am" to the judge when she asked him if he could afford to hire his own attorney. Reeves, who appeared in court via a video link from the jail, appeared to be wearing a bullet proof vest without a shirt underneath.

Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, argued that his client should be released because of his deep ties to the community.

Escobar said the probable cause document was "quite weak" and that Reeves was defending himself.

"The alleged victim attacked him," Escobar said, adding that Oulson threw something, possibly popcorn, at Reeves. "At that point in time he has every right to defend himself."

The judge said that throwing "an unknown object does not equal taking out a gun" and shooting someone.

Escobar said Reeves has lived in the Tampa Bay area almost his entire life, and he worked at the Tampa Police department for more than two decades until his retirement in 1993, and was a homicide detective and captain during his career. Reeves has two grown children, one a Tampa Police officer.

Reeves' application to join the Tampa Police Department shows that he served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1963 as a machinists' mate on a submarine. After an honorable discharge, he worked as a truck driver, drove a bucket truck for a telephone company and as a warehouse worker.

As a police officer, Reeves regularly received outstanding evaluations and numerous letters of commendation for his leadership skills and the frequent trainings he led for other agencies on gun safety and other topics. He was lauded for leading the tactical response team for Vice President George H.W. Bush's visit to Tampa in 1987.

He was often praised for his problem solving abilities to manage stressful situations.

"Captain Reeves not only has the ability to act decisively when necessary but has the foresight to initiate the proper course of action to avoid conflict," a supervisor remarked in one job performance review.

However, early in his career, one supervisor noted "Reeves has a tendency to be impatient in regards to legal matters and practices now in force...and may be abrupt with complainants in some areas of the city."

In 1968, he was reprimanded for carelessly handling a city weapon.

Reeves' home in Hernando County lies north of the movie theater. Neighbors said that Reeves and his wife moved to the rural subdivision about 10 years ago.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew that Reeves was a retired police officer, said D'Andrea, the neighbor.

"He was a stand-up guy in the neighborhood," D'Andrea said. "I would not think he was the type of guy to do something like that."

Reeves and his wife were friendly with the neighbors, often attending house parties, said D'Andrea. The couple also owned a motorcycle and enjoyed taking long rides.

Reeves was instrumental in establishing the Tampa Police Department's first tactical response team, that agency's spokeswoman said. He retired in 1993 and later worked security at the Busch Gardens theme park. He also served on the Crimestoppers board of Hernando County.

D'Andrea said Reeves' experience in law enforcement should have taught him not to pull his weapon in a movie theater.

"It doesn't just affect his life, it affects a lot of people," he said.

Devon Detrapani and her husband Joseph were friends with the Oulsons and that the men worked together at Sky Powersports, a motorcycle and off road vehicle dealer.

Chad Oulson was the company's finance manager and a hard worker, Detrapani said. He rode dirt bikes on the weekend and "liked" several motocross stars on Facebook, but his true love was his baby daughter, Lexi.

"They are awesome parents," said Devon Detrapani. "They love that little girl so much."

Detrapani said that Oulson was texting with his daughter's daycare on the afternoon he was shot. She said that Oulson was a kind man with no anger issues.

"He is a very nice guy," she said. "He would give the shirt off his back to help someone."

Oulson had Monday off and his wife, Nicole, worked at USAA Insurance and took the day off so they could go to the movies together.

Detrapani said she and her husband, who attended kids' birthday parties with the Oulsons, are in shock.

"This does not make sense. I don't understand," she said. "It should have never happened. Now poor Lexi has to grow up without a daddy and Nicole doesn't have a husband."

POSTED EARLIER:

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — A 71-year-old retired police officer accused of shooting a man dead in a Florida movie theater told authorities that "he was in fear of being attacked" during Monday's confrontation.

Curtis Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson. A judge ordered Reeves held without bond during a court hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Pasco County Sheriff's officials say Reeves initially asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.

Sheriff's Detective Allen Proctor wrote that Reeves spoke to Oulson during the movie previews, then got up from his seat and informed management.

ARCHIVE STORY: Movie theaters among Florida places where guns are allowed

When Reeves returned to his seat "additional words were exchanged" and Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, the report said.

After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that's when he removed a .380 caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he "was in fear of being attacked."

Oulson's wife, who was also in the theater, had put her hand on her husband's chest prior to the shooting in an attempt to shield him. Officials say she was also struck by the bullet.

There were about 25 people in the theater at the time of the shooting, witnesses and authorities said. The movie playing was "Lone Survivor," about Navy SEALS in Afghanistan.

"I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie," said Charles Cummings, who was sitting near Oulson and Reeves. "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. When they spoke to reporters on Monday, both had blood on their clothes.

"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 was a nurse began performing CPR on the victim.

The man sitting next to the suspect happened to be an off-duty deputy from another county, and he grabbed the gun out of Reeves' 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 Chad Oulson died, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Doug Tobin. 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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Comments » 2

MIOCENE1 writes:

"He was a stand-up guy in the neighborhood," D'Andrea said. "I would not think he was the type of guy to do something like that."

It just goes to show:
When you think you know someone; maybe you really don't.

Makes one wonder what are other kind, friendly, "stand up", neighbors are capeable of doing; even me or that matter.

Regardless: Better think twice about flipping someone the "bird", saying something nasty, cutting someone off, or throwing popcorn.

Some closet nut is liable to blow a hole in your chest.

This was murder in the first degree. Although the shooter didn't plan it well in advance; during the moments leading up to the shooting; he knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it; and of course; the consequences of his actions.

1Paradiselost writes:

A box of popcorn is not a lethal weapon. It will be interesting to see what happens. BTW... What ever happened to the guy who killed the elderly woman on the streets of Marco with his car?

Speaking of public violence, This story should also be in our newspaper! It's not that far away and could happen here. To many robberies with the same MO.

It's important to keep the local public on guard and informed.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/natio...

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