Trial for retired cop accused of shooting, killing man in Wesley Chapel movie theater begins Monday
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. - Eight years after retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves shot and killed 43-year-old Chad Oulson during an argument over a cell phone, it will be heard by a jury.
Surveillance video from inside the Cobb Theater in Wesley Chapel shows an argument between the two, immediately before the gun went off. The video shows Oulson grabbing Reeves' popcorn and throwing it at him. Then Reeves fires a gun and kills Oulson.
"He said, ‘Man, I can't believe I got shot," one witness said immediately afterward. "Blood started coming out of his mouth. I just held him."
Curtis Reeves was charged with second-degree murder that day, January 13, 2014.
"His state of mind? I can't tell you (that)," said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. "I can't tell you because this is a man who just shot somebody over texting."
They began having words when Reeves asked Oulson to stop texting.
FROM 2014: Theater shooting suspect Curtis Reeves freed on $150,000 bond
The time since the gunshot has been filled with numerous motions and pandemic-related delays.
Reeves' attorneys will argue that once Oulson chucked the popcorn, there was no way a 71-year-old could have known what would be next.
He has said he was afraid of being attacked. Because the now-79 year old wasn't the instigator or committing a crime during the altercation, they'll say he had no duty to retreat.
"(Jurors) are going to see what he is going to look like now," said legal analyst Anthony Rickman. "They are going to see an old man. The defense is going to paint that old man as a victim."
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Rickman predicts the prosecution will show video of Reeves talking to theater managers about Oulson being on his phone before the movie, and that thrown popcorn doesn't suggest you should be so afraid as to need a gun.
Was Reeves angry or afraid?
"He could have distanced himself, he could have stayed in the lobby, waited for somebody to come in and assist him, tell Oulson to shut off his cell phone," said Rickman. "Instead, Reeves went back into the theater."
There will likely be testimony from witnesses who were at the 1:20 p.m. showing of "Lone Survivor," potentially including Oulson's wife, Nichole, who was injured in the shooting, as she put her hand up to calm the argument.
"His wife is going to be sitting there throughout the entire trial," said Rickman. "The jury is going to have to look her in the face every day and see her reactions."
Another factor that could be raised is Reeves' history as a Tampa police captain, as officers are trained in deescalation techniques.
But the defense could argue that means he truly knows when he's in danger.