LAND O'LAKES — A man shot to death at a movie theater last week was remembered Saturday as someone who loved his family and loved to laugh.
Chad Oulson lived life at “full-throttle,” his friends said, and always had a smile on his face.
About 300 people packed into the Land O'Lakes Church of God for the afternoon service to honor Oulson, who died Monday after he was shot in the chest during an argument about texting at the Cobb Grove 16 Multiplex in Wesley Chapel. The shooter, decorated former Tampa police officer Curtis Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bail.
The case has attracted national media attention.
Oulson, 43, is survived by his wife and the couple's 22-month-old daughter, Alexis. Nicole Oulson, who was injured by the same bullet that killed her husband, greeted a long line of mourners with a heavily bandaged left hand.
“It's been a rough week for a lot of people,” the Rev. Dewey D. Huffstutler said during the service.
Photographs of Oulson while he was growing up and as he played with his young daughter, along with some of his motorcycle dirt-bike gear, adorned a table at the front of the church. Before and after the service a video montage of his life was played, showing a man who liked sports, motorcycles and spending time with his family.
Oulson was texting his daughter's babysitter while he and his wife watched the previews for “Lone Survivor” on the afternoon of Jan. 13.
Reeves, who was sitting behind the couple with his wife, repeatedly asked Oulson to put down the phone, Pasco County sheriff's deputies said. Eventually, Reeves got up and left to complain to the staff.
When he returned, Oulson asked if Reeves had reported him to management, authorities said. The two began to argue, Oulson threw a bag of popcorn, and Reeves pulled out a gun and shot Oulson in the chest. Nicole Oulson put her hand in front of her husband as the shot was fired, and the bullet struck both of them, the sheriff's office reported.
“The world lost a great guy,” said neighbor Saverio Mongelli during the memorial service. “He was funny, respectful, energetic about life.”
Oulson was from Mount Sterling, Ill. and came to Florida about 15 years ago. He moved to Land O'Lakes with his wife in 2010. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Oulson served during Operation Desert Storm and won awards for good conduct.
“I don't think (remembering Chad) will be too difficult for anybody,” friend Aaron Melvin said. “He was a presence; he was a character.”
Oulson always ordered buffalo shrimp at Frenchy's restaurant, Mongelli said. He never looked at the menu.
Oulson and Mongelli would spend evenings sitting on one of their porches, talking about work or their kids. One year, for Halloween, they dressed as the cast from the Jersey Shore television reality show. They even did the handshakes.
“I keep waiting for him to come through the door with a beer, ready to go out back and just laugh,” Mongelli said. “Chad is going to be missed, but his spirit is going to live on forever.”
In a statement released Thursday, Nicole Oulson's attorneys said she was undergoing surgery and other medical treatment for the injury to her hand, and requested privacy. She is “grieving the death of her husband” and comforting their daughter, the statement said. Nicole Oulson plans to attend Reeves' bail hearing next month, her attorney said Friday.
Joe Detrapani, a friend and co-worker of Oulson's at Sky Powersports motorcylce dealership, has organized a Facebook group, the Chad Oulson Family Fund, and is planning fundraisers for Nicole Oulson and her daughter. Oulson didn't have life insurance, Detrapani said.
“We really need to buckle down and help out,” he said.
Oulson was a nice guy who would instantly make whoever he was talking to feel like they were his best friend, Detrapani said. He would try and make everyone laugh and was always quick to lend a hand to others.
“We're all going to miss him,” Detrapani said. “There's this huge hole in the world and in our hearts.”