1 year, 10 months ago From Associated Press
Chad Oulson was shot after an argument in a movie theater
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 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.
AND O' LAKES, Fla - A quick look at Chad Oulson's Facebook page will give you a snapshot into his life as a devoted father and husband.
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The 43-year-old is often pictured with his 3-year-old daughter Lexi. In one picture, he helps put lipstick on his daughter as she uses the new toy vanity she received for Christmas. In another, Chad is holding Lexi in his arms at the zoo.
"He was always at the community pool playing with kids, loved the water, loved her [his daughter]," said neighbor and friend Saverio Mongelli.
Father of a toddler himself, Mogelli and his wife told ABC Action News they would frequently hangout with the Chad and Nicole Oulson and even spent holidays with them.
The couples both moved on to Sequester Loop in Land O' Lakes three years ago, just one week apart.
"Good, genuine person, funny guy," Mongelli added before breaking down in tears.
Mongelli said a neighbor told him Chad was shot and killed inside Cobb Grove 16 theater by a retired Tampa Police Officer.
Chad and his wife, according to friends, went on a date to lunch and then a movie.
They explained that the couple worked different shifts. Chad did financial work for SKY Powersports in Port Richey and Nicole worked for USAA selling insurance.
Nicole, according to her friends, called out of work to spend the day with her husband. Their 3-year-old daughter Lexi was at daycare, Mongelli said.
Mongelli said the couple decided on a matinee so they could still pick up Lexi from daycare on time.
They bought tickets for Lone Survivor, a war movie, noted for its graphic scenes and bloodshed.
Pasco Sheriff's deputies say soon after the couple took their seats inside theater 10 an argument broke out between Chad and Curtis Reeves Jr.
The argument was over Chad texting his daughter, deputies said.
Reeves, 71, a retired Tampa Police officer, was also accompanied by his wife.
Sheriff Chris Nocco told ABC Action News that Reeves left the theater in an effort to find an usher that could tell Chad to turn off his phone. Nocco added that when Reeves returned, the men exchanged words, popcorn went flying, and that is when Reeves pulled out a .380 pistol and opened fire.
"For a retired or off duty officer, who has that training and all that, it should have never escalated to that point," said Chad's friend Joseph Trapani.
"Chad doesn't carry weapons, doesn't hold weapons," he said.
According to witnesses, when Reeves pulled out the gun, Chad's wife lunged to protect him. She reportedly put her hand over his chest but the bullet ended up going through her hand.
Chad, according to witness Alex Cummings, took a few steps and blurted out, "I can't believe I've been shot."
Chad fell down and died seconds later.
"She's a wreck. I mean she just lost her husband, the father of her little girl over something that should have never happened," Trapani added.
Chad was taken by ambulance to an area hospital. His wife was taken to St. Joseph's in Tampa.
Nicole Oulson was released from the hospital Monday evening and is now back at home.
She has requested privacy as she grieves and tries to explain to her daughter how she will never see her father again.
"It is just going to be a huge hole in everybody's lives for him and his family. He'd give you the shirt off his back if he needed to," Trapani said.
Chad and Nicole Olson moved to Florida three years ago from Clayton, Illinois.