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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Judge denies bond for Pasco theater shooting suspect

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Published:   |   Updated: February 7, 2014 at 07:37 PM

DADE CITY — Curtis Reeves Jr. was denied bond Friday and will remain in the Land O’ Lakes Jail as he awaits his trial on second-degree murder charges in last month’s fatal shooting in a Wesley Chapel movie theater.

In making the ruling after a two-day bond hearing, Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa said he anticipated his decision would be appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, and Reeves’ attorney, Richard Escobar, confirmed outside the courthouse that an appeal will be filed.

“Mr. Reeves was prepared for this,” Escobar said. “This is a homicide case. In the vast majority of homicide cases, bond is not granted.

Meanwhile, Nicole Oulson, the wife of Chad Oulson, 43, the Land O’ Lakes man Reeves is accused of killing, said the judge made the right decision. Reeves and Chad Oulson had become embroiled in a dispute over Oulson texting on his cellphone during previews before a showing of the movie “Lone Survivor”

“I’m very happy and relieved by the judge’s ruling,” said Nicole Oulson, who was shot in the finger by the same bullet that killed her husband.

A pre-trial hearing in the case has been scheduled for March 12.

Siracusa’s ruling came after two days of testimony, including the viewing of a surveillance video of the Jan. 13 shooting at a Cobb Theatre in Wesley Chapel.

The surveillance video was played twice, once in a version supplied by the prosecution and the second time in an enhanced version provided by the defense that more clearly showed some of the details.

The video did not have sound.

Several seconds before the shooting, a tiny light can be seen coming at Reeves’ head. The light then appears to bounce off the 71-year-old former Tampa police captain and fall to the floor.

Moments later, Chad Oulson can been seen briefly in the frame, appearing to snatch Reeves’ popcorn and toss it in his face. Reeves pulls his gun and fires.

Escobar said during the bond hearing that he believes he knows what that light was. It was Oulson’s cellphone, which had been the subject of the dispute between Reeves and Oulson, he said. That cellphone was later found near where Reeves was seated, Escobar said.

Prosecutors said Escobar was going too far in speculating on what the light might be.

Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia noted that Reeves had no injuries to his face that a cellphone might have made, and it’s unlikely Oulson would throw an iPhone that cost hundreds of dollars. Also, 13 seconds elapsed between the appearance of the light and the shooting, Garcia said.

“If you believe that cellphone was thrown at Mr. Reeves, 13 seconds goes by before he shoots him,” Garcia said.

Garcia said Reeves went into the theater looking for a confrontation and can be seen on the video learning forward to complain to Oulson about the cellphone almost as soon as he sat down. He leaned forward two or three more times and at one point can be seen getting up and leaving the theater to complain to management, Garcia said.

“From the moment he gets there he is aggressive,” he said. “Mr. Reeves has appointed himself the texting police.”

Garcia said there never would have been a shooting if Reeves had not brought a handgun into the theater, disregarding signs that said no weapons were allowed. Reeves had the gun in his right front pocket.

Although Garcia discounted the idea that Oulson threw the cellphone, Escobar said it was that action that put his client in fear.

Reeves said he was concerned for his safety just before he pulled the trigger because Oulson was coming over the seat in front of him and struck him in the face, according to a taped interview with a Pasco County sheriff’s detective shortly after the shooting.

He said Oulson, who was texting his daughter’s babysitter, was becoming more agitated and was cursing.

“I thought the guy was going to beat the (expletive) out of me,” Reeves said on the tape, which also was played in court Friday.

Also on the audio tape, Reeves at one point expressed regrets about how the situation unfolded.

“If I had it to do over again, it never would have happened,” said Reeves, who was in the theater with his wife, Vivian. “We would have moved.”

Prosecutors also played audio of taped interviews with Vivian Reeves and Nicole Oulson.

Nicole Oulson was interviewed by a detective at the St. Joseph Hospital emergency room, where she was being treated for her wound. Her interview contradicted some of Reeves’ interview. She described her husband as mostly remaining calm, though he did eventually become upset and stood to face Reeves, she said.

She said her husband did not strike Reeves, but did ask him what his problem was. She said she stood and put her hand on her husband to tell him the argument wasn’t worth it and that’s when the shot was fired.

“I never saw the weapon or anything,” Oulson said. “I just saw the spark and heard the noise.”

She said she saw her husband fall and was so concerned about him that she didn’t realize at first she, too, was shot. As others came to help, including an off-duty Sumter County deputy who took Reeves’ gun, Reeves just sat back, she said.

“As all the chaos was going on, he was just sitting there,” Oulson said.

Vivian Reeves, who was interviewed in a room at the theater, also said she didn’t see Oulson strike her husband, but she described Chad Oulson as belligerent and cursing. She also said her husband said he had been hit right after the shooting happened.

“I didn’t see the gun,” Vivian Reeves said. “I heard the pop. I couldn’t believe it.”

She said in his years in law enforcement her husband never shot anyone.

She said she wasn’t sure why her husband shot Oulson, other than he may have thought Oulson would hurt him.

At one point, the judge asked Escobar whether he was asserting a “stand your ground” defense because during the hearing Escobar made references to the state law that says a person has no duty to retreat when in fear of bodily harm. Escobar said Reeves acted in self-defense, but was not at this time invoking “stand your ground,” though he did not rule it out for the future.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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