DADE CITY (FOX 13) - The judge presiding over a landmark Stand Your Ground case will soon decide whether a retired Tampa police captain was justified when he shot and killed a man in a Wesley Chapel movie theater three years ago.
The Curtis Reeves case wrapped up Friday following a meticulous day closing arguments. Reeves is accused of shooting and killing Chad Oulson as the two argued about Oulson using his cell phone in the Cobb Theater on Jan. 13, 2014.
The defense took nearly four hours to lay out arguments one last time.
“This case is all about perception,” defense attorney Richard Escobar said, ending the case much like he began it, while urging the judge to “sit in the shoes” of the then-71-year-old man. “Curtis is terrified.
This behavior by Mr. Oulson is unexpected, it’s uncontrolled, it’s outrageous.”
Reeves has said his request that Oulson put away his phone was met with a barrage of obscenities.
Escobar once again argued Oulson threw his cell phone at Reeves as the argument escalated. Surveillance video shows Oulson grabbing Reeves popcorn and throwing it back at him before Reeves opened fire, killing Oulson.
The defense has called that a vicious attack that frightened Reeves, who they portrayed as calm and polite.
“Have we ever seen anyone use profanity in a theater? That would be shocking. Absolutely shocking to the best of us,” Escobar said.
Last week Judge Susan Barthle went to the Cobb Theater and sat in the exact same seat Reeves sat in to try to get a better idea of his perspective.
Escobar hopes that will make a bigger impression on her than the grainy surveillance video.
“A six-foot-four individual standing, trying to come over that chair is terrifying!” he said. “It’s that perspective. Do we think by any stretch of the imagination that that camera at thirty-five-feet high can even capture a glimmer of what one can fear in seat number nine?”
When it was prosecutors turn to present their closing arguments, they wasted no time portraying Reeves as an angry instigator who overreacted to getting a bag of popcorn thrown on him.
“One word that sums up the events on January 13th, 2014, one word: retaliation,” Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin said. “The action of harming someone because they have harmed oneself. One word: retaliation.”
Martin then reminded the judge of something three witnesses testified they heard Reeves say after the shooting.
“‘Throw popcorn on me, will you?’ Bang!” Martin said.
The state also said there’s no way Reeves can prove he got hit in the face with Oulson’s cell phone and that there are only two indisputable facts.
“We know that Mr. Oulson had a bag of popcorn. We know that Mr. Reeves had a pistol. There’s no question about it,” Martin said, adding the State believes Reeves is the one who continued the dispute after he left to notify theater management that Oulson was using his cell phone. “You know the difference at that moment in time between Mr. Reeves and Mr. Oulson in that rekindled hostile environment? Mr. Reeves had a pistol in his pocket.”
Judge Barthle plans to enter a written ruling by next Friday. If she decides Reeves was standing his ground, he will walk free. If she sides with prosecutors, Reeves will be tried for murder at a later date.
The judge is expected to issue a written ruling by 3 p.m. next Friday.