Published January 14, 2014
The Tampa Bay man fatally shot Monday in front of his terrified wife inside a movie theater over an argument about text messaging told the gunman, "I can't believe I got shot," moments after suffering a fatal shot to the chest, a witness told The Tampa Bay Times.
The dispute began around 1:30 p.m. at a theater in Wesley Chapel when Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, a retired Tampa Bay police officer, told 43-year-old Chad Oulson to stop texting during a showing of "Lone Survivor," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said. When Oulson refused, Reeves alerted the theater staff, which escalated the confrontation.
At that point Reeves allegedly pulled out a gun in front of about 10 people and shot Oulson, authorities said. Oulson's wife, Nicole, put her hand in front of her husband in an effort to protect him and was injured. Oulson reportedly told the shooter that he was sending text messages to his young daughter.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Reeves placed his .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol on his thigh and an off-duty sheriff’s deputy secured the weapon and made sure Reeves stayed put.
Reeves was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. According to the arrest report, Reeves claims that the victim struck him in the face with an unknown object and said that he was in fear of being attacked.
Reeves "had every right to defend himself" after being hit with an unknown object, believed to be bag of popcorn, his attorneys said on Tuesday afternoon at a standing-room-only bond hearing. They dismissed the prosecution's case against Reeves as "weak" and went on to say the alleged victim was the initial aggressor, MyFoxTampaBay.com reported. But Judge Lynn Tepper rejected the defense's claims that second-degree murder charges are too severe for Reeves, and she refused to let him out on bond "regardless of his ties to this community."
"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. "And then bang, he was shot."
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 that the show was still in previews when the two couples started arguing.
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 Nicole 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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report