Trial of Curtis Reeves: Theater shooting victim's wife recalls watching husband die

The wife of the man shot in a Pasco County movie theater in January 2014 took the stand on the first day of the trial of Curtis Reeves, the former Tampa police captain accused of pulling the trigger. After brief opening statements in the trial that was eight years in the making, Nicole Oulson recalled what it was like to watch her husband die.

"I see his eyes were just glazed over and I knew at that moment," she said. "I told him, ‘Chad, we need you, please hang in there, we need you.’"

She told the jury how her husband's encounter with Reeves during the previews of a matinée movie went from slightly tense conversation to gunfire in a matter of minutes. 

She said Chad was quietly scrolling on his phone before the movie started when Reeves leaned forward and told him to put the phone away. Nicole said her husband may have been waiting for a message from their daughter's preschool.

When Chad Oulson did not put the phone away, Reeves left.

Nicole testified that when Reeves came back, he said to Chad, "'I see you put your phone away now that I went to get management.'"

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She said her husband responded with the sentiment of, "what's your problem?" but did not become aggressive.

"What were you thinking?" the prosecutor asked.

Nicole Oulson testifies during day 1 trial of Curtis Reeves, accused of fatally shooting her husband, Chad in a Florida movie theater in 2014

"Why is this still going on? The phone was away. This should be over," Nicole testified.

She said the next few seconds went by quickly. Despite that, attorneys made her recall it, second by second, having her stand near a poster where a photo of the theater seats leaned on an easel for the jury to see. 

Nicole Oulson stands between a poster board and TV monitor while describing moments after her husband was shot, allegedly by Curtis Reeves in a Florida movie theater in 2014

Nicole said she didn't see the moment popcorn flew through the air. She said her husband began to stand and, as he did, she began to stand with him, putting her hand out across his body in an effort to deescalate the situation.

That's when she says she felt the sensation of "fire" on her hand and heard a loud noise. She quickly realized the sound was a gunshot and the fire was a bullet through her hand.

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.

"It felt like my hand was on fire," she said. "It felt like my hand was blown off."

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The jury saw graphic images of Nicole Oulson's injured hand, with her left ring finger nearly severed after the bullet went through it. She was asked to stand and show the jury her "disfigured" hand, years after the shooting, with scars from surgeries she said she had to undergo to repair the damage.

Photo of Nicole Oulson's hand shown to jurors during day 1 of trial of Curtis Reeves, accused of fatally shooting Chad Oulson in a Florida movie theater in 2014

The defense argued in opening statements that this wasn't about popcorn or the light from a cell phone, but rather, about an aging man who fired his gun after Oulson jabbed him and threw his cell phone at him.

Reeves' attorney reminded the jury that their client spent his career watching for potential trouble, as a police captain.

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"He certainly knows how to spot danger," said defense attorney Dino Michaels. "When he is in that theater, that is no different. That is his training and experience. That is something you must consider."

During their cross-examination of Nicole, the defense pointed out it would have been hard for her to know whether Reeves seemed afraid, and that since she didn't see the popcorn thrown, there could have been other things she didn't see. 

Nicole Oulson stands between a poster board and TV monitor during day 1 trial of Curtis Reeves, accused of fatally shooting her husband, Chad in a Florida movie theater in 2014

The prosecution said witnesses saw no aggression from Oulson.

"The most important difference you are going to learn about over the course of this trial is that one of those two individuals brought a loaded firearm into a theater and shot and killed another person after popcorn was tossed on them," said prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser. "That is this defendant. That's the one."

The trial will resume Tuesday morning at 8:30.