Florida theater shooting followed argument over texts

Retired officer charged with killing moviegoer

Curtis Reeves faces life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting.
Tampa Bay Times via AP
Curtis Reeves faces life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting.

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — 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 day care, 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 a friendly, ‘‘stand-up’’ guy. ‘‘I’m trying to put all of this together.’’


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

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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’s 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.

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.’’

Pasco Sergeant Steve Greiner was among the first officers in the theater. When asked about Reeves’s 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 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.


Reeves’s 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.