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Monday, January 20, 2014

Retired Cop Curtis Reeves Kills Unarmed Theatergoer

     From 1961 to 1963, Curtis Reeves, Jr. served as a Navy machinists' mate on a submarine. Following his honorable discharge he drove a truck and worked in a warehouse. In the mid-1970s Reeves became an officer with the Tampa Police Department. He retired, at the rank of captain, in 1993 at the age of 51. In the 1980s officer Reeves helped launch the police department's first SWAT team, a unit he eventually headed.

     After retiring from police work, Reeves took a job with the security department at the Florida theme park, Busch Gardens. When he left that position in 2005 he was director of security.

     In 2003 Reeves and his wife moved into a sprawling ranch-style home in the community of Spring Lake near Brooksville, Florida. He enjoyed riding his motorcycle and was a member of the Mountainview Estates crime stoppers organization. Reeves and his wife had two grown sons, one of whom was an officer with the Tampa Police Department.

     On Monday, January 13, 2014, Curtis Reeves and his wife attended the 1:20 PM showing of "Lone Survivor" at the Grove 16 theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburban community a few miles south of downtown Tampa. Sitting nearby was 43-year-old Chad Oulson and his wife Nicole.

     During the showing of the previews before the start of the feature presentation, Reeves became annoyed when he saw Mr. Oulson texting. When the ex-cop asked Oulson to stop that activity, Oulson ignored the request. After Reeves complained further, Oulson explained that he was texting his young daughter.

     Reeves, furious over the texting, left his seat to notify theater staff regarding this breach of moviegoing etiquette. When he couldn't find anyone in authority to complain to, Reeves returned to his seat. At that point Mr. Oulson made a derogatory comment regarding Reeves' attempt to report him to theater employees. The two men argued which prompted Mr. Oulson to throw a bag of popcorn at Reeves.

    When hit by the popcorn, Reeves pulled out a .380-caliber pistol and shot Chad Oulson in the chest. The victim slumped over in his seat. The bullet that entered Oulson's body first hit his wife in the hand as she tried to hold her husband back. Mr. Oulson tried to speak but couldn't as blood seeped from his mouth. Another theatergoer applied CPR while others called 911.

     An off-duty Tampa police officer who happened to be in the theater approached Reeves who sat quietly in his seat with the pistol on his lap. When the officer asked Reeves to hand over the weapon, Reeves refused. Following a brief scuffle, Reeves calmed down and gave up his gun.

     Reeves' son, the Tampa police officer (who was off-duty) entered the theater about the time his father shot Mr. Oulson. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance crew rushed Mr. Oulson to a Tampa area hospital where doctors pronounced him dead. His wife Nicole was treated for the bullet wound to her hand.

     When deputies with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrived at the theater to take the 71-year-old shooter into custody, they advised the suspect of his Miranda rights.  Reeves told the officers that the man he had shot had struck him with an unknown object. In fear of being assaulted, he pulled and fired his gun.

     Charged with second-degree murder, Reeves made his first court appearance on Tuesday, the day after the shooting. His attorney, Richard Escobar, asked the judge not to set bond due to the fact his client, with all of his ties to the community, was not a flight risk. "The alleged victim attacked him," the defense attorney said.

     The judge, noting that being struck by an unknown object did not call for the use of a handgun, denied bail. During the arraignment, a Pasco County prosecutor said that a woman named Jamira Dixon had come forward with information regarding her recent encounter with Mr. Reeves. According to Dixon, Reeves had become enraged three weeks earlier when he saw her texting in the same theater. Dixon said he glared at her throughout the movie, and followed her out of the room when she got up to use the restroom.

     If convicted as charged, Curtis Reeves could be sentenced to life in prison. In his case, a ten-year sentence would probably have the same result.
     

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