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Texting dispute, thrown popcorn prompts fatal shooting in movie theater

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 who liked riding his motorcycle with his wife and was once on his county’s Crimestoppers board of directors.
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.
“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.”
During Reeves’ first court appearance Tuesday, Judge Lynn Tepper ordered that the 71-year-old be held without bond on a second-degree murder charge.
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 from his seat 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.”
Judge Lynn Tepper said she found the evidence from Monday’s shooting “significant” enough to warrant no bond on the second-degree murder charge. A bond hearing will be scheduled in the coming days.
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 on underneath.
Reeves’ attorney, Richard Escobar, argued that his client should be released because of his deep ties to the community.
Escobar said that he found the Sheriff’s Office probable cause document to be “quite weak” and that Reeves was defending himself from Oulson.
“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.”
Judge Tepper 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 — he worked at the Tampa Police department from 1973-1993, and was a homicide detective at one point. Reeves is active in his church and attends Bible study and has two grown children, one a Tampa Police officer.
Reeves’ home in Hernando County lies north of the movie theater. Neighbors said that Reeves and his wife moved to the rural subdivision about 10 years ago.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew that Reeves was a retired police officer, said D’Andrea, the neighbor.
“He was a stand-up guy in the neighborhood,” D’Andrea said. “I would not think he was the type of guy to do something like that.”
Reeves and his wife were friendly with the neighbors, often attending house parties, said D’Andrea. The couple also owned a motorcycle and enjoyed taking long rides.
Reeves was instrumental in establishing the Tampa Police Department’s first tactical response team, that agency’s spokeswoman said. He retired in 1993 and later worked security at the Busch Gardens theme park. He also served on the Crimestoppers board of Hernando County.
D’Andrea said Reeves’ experience in law enforcement should have taught him not to pull his weapon in a movie theater.
“It doesn’t just affect his life, it affects a lot of people,” he said.
Devon Detrapani and her husband Joseph were friends with the Oulsons and that the men worked together at Sky Powersports, a motorcycle and off road vehicle dealer.
Chad Oulson was the company’s finance manager and a hard worker, Detrapani said. He rode dirt bikes on the weekend and “liked” several motocross stars on Facebook, but his true love was his baby daughter, Lexi.
“They are awesome parents,” said Devon Detrapani. “They love that little girl so much.”
Detrapani said that Oulson was texting with his daughter’s daycare on the afternoon he was shot. She said that Oulson was a kind man with no anger issues.
“He is a very nice guy,” she said. “He would give the shirt off his back to help someone.”
Oulson had Monday off and his wife, Nicole, worked at USAA Insurance and took the day off so they could go to the movies together.
Detrapani said she and her husband, who attended kids’ birthday parties with the Oulsons, are in shock.
“This does not make sense. I don’t understand,” she said. “It should have never happened. Now poor Lexi has to grow up without a daddy and Nicole doesn’t have a husband.”

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