Witnesses testify in Stand Your Ground hearing

- A series of eye-witnesses to the 2014 movie theater shooting in Wesley Chapel wrapped up nearly two weeks of testimony in the Stand Your Ground hearing Thursday for the retired Tampa Police captain charged with murder.

Prosecutors called about a half dozen witnesses, several of whom were in the Cobb theater on Jan. 13, 2014, positioned a few seats away from Curtis Reeves and Chad Oulson.

Most of the witnesses didn't see how the argument started, but realized it was over Oulson using his cell phone during the previews.

Reeves, then 71, has described himself as calm and polite during the dispute. But several people who testified for the prosecution portrayed him as an angry instigator.

One witness, Chuck Cummings, sat a couple seats away from Oulson and in the same row. He said he started to pay close attention around the time Reeves got up to tell a theater manager.

"He contacted the back of my head a little bit," Cummings said, adding he thought he could hear Reeves mumbling to himself.

Jane Roy testified she was in the same row as Reeves.

"You can tell he was very agitated," she said. "He was a big man and he barreled across me."

Cummings said he could hear what Oulson, 43, said after he returned from the lobby.

"I know Chad Oulson said, 'you trying to get me thrown out of the theater?' Or something along those lines," Cummings explained.

As the dispute escalated, Reeves has said Oulson threw his cell phone at him. None of the witnesses for the State said they saw that happen.

But they all saw popcorn fly, as Oulson grabbed Reeves' bag of popcorn and threw it back at him. Reeves testified this week he thought he was being attacked so he pulled out his gun and fired.

"Oh my goodness, it was almost instantaneous," Roy said. "An arm came up and I saw a flash of red. At first I didn't know what it was. I heard a noise and I could smell something and I thought, 'oh my gosh, he shot him!'"

Three separate witnesses said right after Reeves shot Oulson, they heard him say, what one described as a declarative question, "throw popcorn at me."

Prosecutors are hoping to convince the judge that Reeves instigated the argument, overreacted to getting popcorn thrown at him and was not standing his ground.

Closing arguments are expected to take place Friday. Judge Susan Barthle said it could take her up to a week to make a ruling. If she determines the Stand Your Ground law applies, Reeves will be immune from prosecution and walk free. If not, he will be tried in front of a jury for second-degree murder.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Accused theater gunman testifies for first time

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