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Man fatally shot at Fla. theater over texting

Wednesday - 1/15/2014, 4:30am  ET

TAMARA LUSH
Associated Press

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) -- Chad Oulson was described by friends as a man who loved dirt bikes and his baby daughter. Curtis Reeves was a retired Tampa police officer with numerous commendations who liked riding his motorcycle with his wife.

The men's lives collided in a movie theater altercation that left Oulson dead and Reeves in jail. Oulson was texting his daughter's daycare, friends said, and Reeves got mad. Authorities said Reeves shot and killed Oulson with a handgun after the men exchanged words.

"He must have just snapped," neighbor Joe D'Andrea said of Reeves, describing him as friendly, "stand-up" guy. "I'm trying to put all of this together."

Reeves' personnel files from the police department show he led other agencies in gun safety training and received numerous letters of commendation for his leadership.

Still, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said Tuesday: "It didn't matter what he had done previously in his life. You don't shoot someone over a texting incident."

During Reeves' first court appearance Tuesday, Judge Lynn Tepper ordered the 71-year-old held without bond on a second-degree murder charge pending a bond hearing.

Pasco County Sheriff's officials say Reeves initially asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.

Sheriff's Detective Allen Proctor wrote that Reeves spoke to Oulson during the movie previews, then got up and informed management.

When Reeves returned to his seat "additional words were exchanged" and Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, the report said.

After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that's when he removed a .380 caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he "was in fear of being attacked."

The sheriff said at a news conference that Reeves' son -- who was off duty from his job as a Tampa officer -- was walking into the theater when the shooting happened. Nocco said Reeves briefly struggled with an off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun was jammed and unable to fire again.

Pasco Sgt. Steve Greiner was among the first officers in the theater. When asked about Reeves' demeanor, Greiner replied: "He was very calm. He was seated in the chair, looking at the screen."

At the hearing, Judge Lynn Tepper said she found the evidence significant enough to warrant the no bond order.

Reeves faces life in prison if convicted. He only spoke once during his court appearance, to say "yes, ma'am" to the judge when she asked him if he could afford to hire his own attorney. Reeves, who appeared in court via a video link from the jail, appeared to be wearing a bullet proof vest without a shirt underneath.

Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, argued that his client should be released because of his deep ties to the community.

Escobar said the probable cause document was "quite weak" and that Reeves was defending himself.

"The alleged victim attacked him," Escobar said, adding that Oulson threw something, possibly popcorn, at Reeves. "At that point in time he has every right to defend himself."

The judge said that throwing "an unknown object does not equal taking out a gun" and shooting someone.

Escobar said Reeves has lived in the Tampa Bay area almost his entire life, and he worked at the Tampa Police department for more than two decades until his retirement in 1993, and was a homicide detective and captain during his career. Reeves has two grown children, one a Tampa Police officer.

Reeves' application to join the Tampa Police Department shows that he served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1963 as a machinists' mate on a submarine. After an honorable discharge, he worked as a truck driver, drove a bucket truck for a telephone company and as a warehouse worker.

As a police officer, Reeves regularly received outstanding evaluations and numerous letters of commendation for his leadership skills and the frequent trainings he led for other agencies on gun safety and other topics. He was lauded for leading the tactical response team for Vice President George H.W. Bush's visit to Tampa in 1987.

He was often praised for his problem solving abilities to manage stressful situations.

"Captain Reeves not only has the ability to act decisively when necessary but has the foresight to initiate the proper course of action to avoid conflict," a supervisor remarked in one job performance review.

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