Curtis Reeves testifies he has second-guessed deadly theater shooting for 8 years
DADE CITY, Fla. - Murder defendant Curtis Reeves took the stand in his own defense Thursday and explained, in a very calm and composed voice, the fear he faced the day he shot and killed Chad Oulson in a Wesley Chapel movie theater.
"I was concerned that he was so much above me, full of rage, I think you can say that, he was going to strike me with all the strength. I figured that this was the end of the line for me," Reeves recalled.
It’s been five years since Curtis Reeves took the stand and told his side of the story.
Thursday marks the first time the jury has heard from Reeves during this trial. The defense attorneys began asking Reeves about his years with the Tampa Police Department, where he was involved in starting the agency's SWAT team.
With his freedom on the line, the 79-year-old former Tampa police captain described Oulson as angry and aggressive after Reeves asked Oulson to put away his cellphone as the previews played before the feature film.
Ironically, when it came time to discuss the phone inside the theater, a phone began ringing inside the courtroom.
Despite the distraction, Reeves explained that when the usual announcement to silence personal cellphones inside the theater started, he noticed the light from Oulson's phone.
When Reeves said he asked Oulson to turn his phone off, he said Oulson responded angrily.
"I noticed he was standing up, he was yelling a lot of profanities, threats ‘who the "F" do you think you are? I was texting my "F" daughter. The F-word seem to be his primary vocabulary at that point," Reeves said.
After alerting the theater manager, Reeves returned to his seat and said that’s when things escalated.
Nicole Oulson is shown photos of her own hand during day 1 trial of Curtis Reeves, accused of fatally shooting her husband, Chad, in a Florida movie theater in 2014. The bullet first pierced Nicole's hand before it reached her husband's chest.
Reeves said he told Oulson, "If I had known you had put your phone away, I wouldn't have involved the manager."
Reeves said Oulson stood and then he saw a flash.
"I think I was hit on my glasses, the top left side, that’s where I felt the impact, I think. It was like a flash. It was between me and the screen, it was very, very close to me," he said.
Reeves now believes Oulson threw the cellphone, but under cross-examination, prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser said that white flash was actually a reflection from Reeves’ shoe and tried to point it out in the theater video, playing on a large screen facing the Jury.
"You're moving forward, the reflection is your right leg going down," said Rosenwasser.
"I don’t know, sir" replied Reeves.
RECAP: Trial of Curtis Reeves underway 8 years after deadly shooting inside Florida movie theater
Rosenwasser continued to press Reeves.
"At no time was a cellphone thrown at your face. It’s simply a reflection from your shoe," he said.
"I don’t think there’s nobody who can answer that but me," Reeves said.
Reeves told the jury it was never his intention to shoot Oulson or anyone that day.
"I came to the theater with my family to enjoy a movie. Not to be attacked by some guy that’s out of control," Reeves said.
Reeves said the encounter reached a point where he felt that he had no other choice but to reach for his pistol, and shoot him.
"I noticed he was standing up," Reeves recalled. "He was yelling a lot of profanities…he was trying to come over the seat – either that or get to me. I’ve never been in that kind of position before. When he stood up, I’m sitting down in a completely defenseless position. I’m looking up at this guy, and he is looking like a monster. He exhibited explosive behavior, both verbally and physically. I had seen his wife try to control him."
"He was a threat," he added. "He was a threat who was very close to me."
Reeves went on to say he felt trapped, leaning to the side and away from Oulson.
"At some point, I made the decision, I had no alternative," Reeves explained. "In my opinion, he is completely out of control. He is not settling down."
Reeves has talked before about the day he shot Oulson inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater. He took the stand during his Stand Your Ground hearing back in 2017, when he hoped to gain immunity, but it did not end in his favor.
After several days of testimony from witnesses who were inside that movie theater eight years ago, the defense spent the day Wednesday recreating what it was like inside that theater at the time of the shooting.
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They also played testimony from the 2017 hearing, explaining how Reeves was frail and had limited mobility.
Reeves’ defense claims he had no choice but to shoot Oulson as they said Oulson threw his phone at Reeves, escalating their argument over texting.
While Reeves claims it was a self-defense, prosecutors have spent the last week and a half rebutting that claim.
On Wednesday, after a video testimony was played detailing that Reeves was frail and had arthritis, prosecutors pointed out that the expert making these claims had never treated or evaluated Reeves and was making general assumptions.
Sources close to FOX 13 say the 79-year-old retired police captain is eager to take the stand.
Monday, the defense surprised the courtroom by calling the defendant's wife, who was there when her husband fired one shot, killing moviegoer Chad Oulson. Vivian Reeves told the jury she was sitting next to her husband when the confrontation between him and Oulson unfolded.
She said Oulson became angry when her husband asked him to put away his cell phone.
Last week, prosecutors called Nicole Oulson to the stand following opening statements.