MIAMI – A retired police captain who killed a man after an argument over texting in a movie theater told detectives that he feared he was under attack when the victim hit him in the face with an unknown object, police records show.
The object witnesses saw was popcorn. No punches were thrown, they said.
On Tuesday, a Florida judge denied bond for Curtis J. Reeves Jr., 71, who was charged with second-degree murder in the case, which is likely to revolve around Florida’s much-debated self-defense laws. Reeves faces life in prison if convicted.
The “evidence of guilt is significant, and the proof is great,” said Judge Lynn Tepper of Florida’s 6th Judicial Circuit in denying bond for Reeves.
He was arrested Monday afternoon after he shot Chad Oulson, 43, who had been sitting in front of Reeves at a matinee showing of “Lone Survivor” in Wesley Chapel, about 20 miles north of Tampa. The dispute started during the previews, when Oulson – who was the father of a 3-year-old girl named Lexy – refused to stop texting.
“He was sitting there texting. It was making noise, and it was causing a problem for Curtis Reeves,” the Pasco County sheriff, Chris Nocco, said at a news conference. “Curtis Reeves asked him a few times to turn off his phone, and Chad decided not to.”
Reeves left to report the issue to an employee. When he returned, Oulson turned around and complained, asking Reeves whether he had gone to report him to the theater’s management.
Reeves, who retired from the Tampa Police Department in 1993, gave an investigator this account: “The victim turned and stood up, striking him in the face with an unknown object,” Detective Allen Proctor wrote in a police report. “The defendant advised that he removed the .380 semiautomatic handgun from his pants pocket, firing one round striking the victim, and that he was in fear of being attacked.”
An off-duty deputy in the audience detained Reeves while nurses who had come to see “Lone Survivor” tried to save Oulson. He was struck in the chest by a single bullet, the Sheriff’s Office said. The bullet also struck Oulson’s wife in the hand.
The police dismissed the notion that Reeves was exercising his right to self-defense.
Florida’s self-defense statute, known as the “stand your ground” law, removes a person’s duty to retreat when they fear mortal danger.
“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, Nocco said Tuesday: “It didn’t matter what he had done previously in his life. You don’t shoot someone over a texting incident.”
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.