Retired cop guns down man for texting at Florida movie

Jan 13, 2014 6:33 PM

NBC News

A retired cop, irked that the couple in front of him were texting at a Mark Wahlberg war movie, opened fire in a Florida theater Monday, killing the man and wounding his wife, authorities said.

Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, was charged with second-degree homicide in the death of Chad Oulson, 43, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said late Monday afternoon. Oulson, who was shot in the chest, and his wife, Nichole, who was shot in the hand, were rushed to local hospitals. Chad Oulson was pronounced dead, and his wife was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The theater was evacuated and remained closed after the shooting, which occurred about 1:20 p.m. ET.

An off-duty sheriff's deputy from neighboring Sumter County was in the Grove 16 Theatre in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa, and detained Reeves until Pasco authorities arrived, Nocco said. NBC station WFLA of Tampa showed images of an older man in a white track suit being led away in handcuffs.

"Everybody is paranoid, they're scared, because a movie theater should be somewhere safe where people are out there to enjoy themselves," Nocco told reporters.

"But unfortunately, what America has seen over the last couple of years is that movie theaters have become dangerous places," he said in an apparent reference to the mass killings at a theater in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012.

Nocco said the tragedy unfolded after Reeves became outraged over something trivial: "somebody texting."

Reeves and his wife were sitting behind the Oulsons as the preview trailers were rolling just before the showing of "Lone Survivor," the Mark Wahlberg movie about a failed 2007 Navy Seal raid in Afghanistan, investigators said.

Reeves asked Chad Oulson several times to stop, to no avail, Nocco said. He then left the theater briefly before returning to his seat, the sheriff said.

The two men began arguing when Chad Oulson demanded to know whether Reeves had left to report him to the management for using his cellphone, Nocco said. Eventually, Reeves pulled out a .380-caliber handgun and shot Chad Oulson, the sheriff said.

Shaking his head, Nocco said: "It's absolutely crazy that it would arise to this level of altercation over somebody just texting in a movie theater."

The theater's operator, Cobb Theatres, said in a statement that it was "truly heartbroken by this incident" and that it was cooperating with investigators.

Reeves retired as a captain from the Tampa Police Department in 1993, said Laura McElroy, a spokeswoman for the department, adding that Reeves helped set up the department's first SWAT team.

"We are not aware of any contact with the department since his departure more than 20 years ago," she said in a statement.

Nichole Oulson was wounded in the hand when she grabbed her husband as Reeves fired, Nocco said.


Most Popular