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Ex-Fla. police officer accused in fatal movie theater shooting over texting

Charles Cummings, left, and Alex Cummings talk to media after witnessing a shooting inside Cobb theater Monday, Jan 13, 2014, in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Authorities say a retired Tampa police officer has been charged with fatally shooting a man during an argument over cellphone use at the theater. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Cliff Mcbride)
Charles Cummings, left, and Alex Cummings talk to media after witnessing a shooting inside Cobb theater Monday, Jan 13, 2014, in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Authorities say a retired Tampa police officer has been charged with fatally shooting a man during an argument over cellphone use at the theater. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Cliff Mcbride)
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Updated: 1/14 7:40 am
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — An argument over texting in a Florida movie theater Monday triggered a retired Tampa police captain to fatally shoot a man sitting in front of him, as about 25 horrified moviegoers looked on, sheriff's officials said.

"Somebody throws popcorn. I'm not sure who threw the popcorn," said Charles Cummings, who, as a birthday treat, was about to watch the movie "Lone Survivor" at The Grove 16 Theater.

"And then bang, he was shot."

Curtis Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder and it's not immediately clear whether he has retained an attorney.

Pasco County Sheriff's officials said the shooting happened when Reeves asked 43-year-old Chad Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half hour north of downtown Tampa.

Reeves and his wife were sitting behind Oulson and his wife. Oulson told Reeves that he was texting with his 3-year-old daughter, Cummings said.

"It ended almost as quickly as it started," said sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin. The sheriff's office says an off-duty Sumter County deputy detained Reeves until police arrived.

Cummings and his son Alex — who both had blood on their clothes as they walked out of the theater — told a group of reporters Monday afternoon that the show was still in previews when the two couples started arguing.

Cummings said the man in the back row — later identified as Reeves — got up and left the auditorium, presumably to get a manager. But he came back after a few minutes, without a manager and appearing upset. Moments later, the argument between the two men resumed, and the man in the front row stood up.

Officials said Oulson asked Reeves if he reported him to management for using his phone.

Cummings said the men started raising their voices and popcorn was thrown. Authorities said Reeves took out a gun, and Oulson's wife put her hand over her husband, and that's when Reeves fired his weapon, striking Nichole Oulson in the hand and her husband in the chest.

"I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie," Cummings said. "I can't believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn. Over a cellphone."

Cummings, who said he was a combat Marine in Vietnam, said Oulson fell onto him and his son.

"Blood started coming out of his mouth," said Alex Cummings. "It was just a very bad scene."

Charles Cummings said his son went to call 911, while Cummings and another patron who claimed to be a nurse began performing CPR on the victim.

A man sitting next to the shooter grabbed the gun out of his hand, and the suspect did not attempt to get away, Cummings said.

Oulson and his wife were taken by ambulance to a Tampa-area hospital, where the Chad Oulson died, Tobin said. His wife's injuries weren't considered life-threatening.

Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said in a news release that Reeves was a captain when he retired from the department in 1993. She added that he was instrumental in establishing the agency's first tactical response team.
After he retired, Reeves worked security for the Busch Gardens theme park and was on the board of a neighboring county's Crime Stoppers organization. Reeves' son also is a Tampa officer, police said.
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

warpsix - 1/14/2014 4:17 PM
0 Votes
"I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie,Cummings said." You should always pack a legal gun You Never know when a real life Joker will show up at a theater and start killing. That being said i would not pull it out and use it for a phone texting issue.

Realchange - 1/14/2014 12:26 PM
0 Votes
Ex-police officer so cops will rally behind him and the prosecutor will intentionally foul the case up. Sort of like the case in Jax where a concealed weapons permit holder, drops his gun out of his pocket (instead of a concealed holster) with no safety and kills a cyber café person. No charges many implied that old man had cop connections as well. If you dislike the above example maybe you remember the boot camp teen beat to death on video camera then the prosecutor in that case (after being forced to use a second coroner report) proceeds to put the nurse in with the 3 ex cops so the jury would find all 4 innocent. Did the worst job you could imagine so 3 ex cops could get away with beating a young teen boy that could not run anymore to death. The teen btw did have blood enzyme condition that would prevented long term running. He had been sent to boot camp to straighten him out for stealing his grandmas car for a joyride. Not sent there so 3 300lb gorillas could beat him to death for refusing to run anymore. Cops and ex-cops in Fla can do no wrong in wrongful death cases.

eviltwinmorgan - 1/14/2014 6:55 AM
1 Vote
That old man surely thought that anyone willing to argue, jump up, and throw popcorn at a stranger was armed to boot. The old man must have been afraid for his life when a man nearly thirty years younger threw popcorn, and may have started throwing punches. One punch could be fatal to a seventy-something. While this is a tragedy, I feel the old man was justified.

Erik Slader - 1/13/2014 4:36 PM
1 Vote
I really don't understand. I get that people using their phones during a movie is annoying as Hell, but using a firearm at the cinemas in response is like using a grenade to clean a house. It's not just excessive, or irresponsible, it's extremely stupid . How did this individual get cleared to own a weapon? In all seriousness, my heart goes out to the victims, their families, and everyone affected by this horrendous act of indecency .
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