WESLEY CHAPEL — A retired Tampa police captain, angry about a man texting during movie previews, shot and killed the moviegoer and wounded the man’s wife Monday afternoon just before the showing of “Lone Survivor” at the Grove 16 theater, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.
Chad and Nicole Oulson of Land O’ Lakes were taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. Chad Oulson, 43, died, and Nicole Oulson, 33, was treated for a gunshot wound to her hand and released, authorities said.
Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, was charged with second-degree homicide.
The Oulsons were sitting in front of Reeves and his wife, and Chad Oulson was texting as they waited for the movie to begin, the sheriff’s office said. Detectives said Reeves asked Oulson several times to stop.
Reeves eventually left the theater to complain to staff. When he returned, Oulson asked if Reeves had reported him to management, the sheriff’s office said.
The two began to argue and Reeves pulled out a gun and shot Oulson in the chest, the sheriff’s office reported. Nicole Oulson put her hand in front of her husband as the shot was fired, and the same bullet struck both of them, the sheriff’s office reported.
After the shooting, Reeves put the gun, a .380-caliber handgun, in his lap. An off-duty Sumter County sheriff’s deputy who had come to see the movie secured the gun and detained him, the sheriff’s office reported.
“(The deputy) ran into the hot zone to make sure nobody else got hurt,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Reeves retired from the Tampa Police Department on Sept. 30, 1993, and does not appear to have had any contact with the department since his retirement, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. Reeves was instrumental in establishing the department’s Tactical Response Team, she said. His son, Mathew Reeves, works for the department as a patrol officer.
Reeves also served as director of security at Busch Gardens, a position he left in 2005.
Grove 16 is a Cobb Theatre and in the Groves at Wesley Chapel Shopping Center on Wesley Grove Boulevard.
Movie patrons were evacuated after the shooting.
About 25 people were in the theater where “Lone Survivor” was showing, said Melanie Snow, a spokeswoman for the Pasco sheriff’s office.
Among them was Charles Cummings, a Vietnam veteran who had come to see the movie to celebrate his 68th birthday. Cummings said he was about two seats away from where the shooting happened.
Cummings, who was at the theater with his son, Alex Cummings, said when the argument first began, Reeves left to find a manager. When Reeves returned, the argument started again, he said.
He said Chad Oulson told the shooter, “I was just texting my 3-year-old daughter.” Then the voices got louder, someone threw popcorn and one man shot the other, Cummings said.
“I can’t believe people would bring a pistol into a movie,” Charles Cummings said.
Alex Cummings said his father told him to go out and call 911. When he returned, Alex Cummings said, he heard Oulson say, “I can’t believe I got shot.”
Oulson then collapsed, Alex Cummings said. The man’s wife also had blood on her, he said.
Two off-duty nurses attended to Oulsons until paramedics arrived, the sheriff’s office reported.
Both Cummings had blood splattered on their clothes while trying to assist the husband and wife after they were shot.
Kareen Lasky, who was in a different theater watching “August: Osage County,” said she didn’t hear the shots and was unaware anything was happening until the lights went on and a theater employee said they would have to leave.
“The first thing I thought of was the theater out there in the West,” Lasky said, referring to a 2012 mass shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo.
Nocco said he had similar thoughts when he first got word.
“The back of your hair sticks up as you are running toward this location wondering what is really going on here,” he said.
In this case, though, it was an isolated incident involving an argument between two people who happened to be sitting near each other, the sheriff said.
“These two people were brought together by fate today,” Nocco said. “They would have never known each other.”
He said the movie hadn’t started at the time of the shooting, which happened about 1:20 p.m., but previews of coming attractions had started.
“It’s absolutely crazy that it would rise to this level of altercation over someone just texting in a movie theater,” Nocco said. “But I can tell you right now when this goes out everybody is paranoid, they are scared because a movie theater should be somewhere safe where people are out there to enjoy themselves. But unfortunately what America has seen over the last couple of years is movie theaters have become dangerous places.”
By midafternoon, Grove 16 management had put a message on the theater website to say the theater was temporarily closed “due to circumstance beyond our control.”
Bennie Holder worked closely with Reeves when the two were on the Tampa department’s SWAT team. Holder eventually went on to become chief from 1993 to 2003.
Holder said he was shocked to hear the accusations against his former colleague.
“I never saw anything that he would be involved in something like this,’’ Holder said. “I didn’t see that character in him. He was a great cop, great person.’’
No one was home at the Oulsons’ Land O’ Lakes home Monday evening, but family friends had dropped by to provide support to Nicole Oulson.
“Just a good all-around guy,” family friend Joseph Detrapani said. “Father of a beautiful little girl. Just a tragic loss for her and her family for something that’s just kind of senseless. Not really sure what all happened, but the end result didn’t justify anything that could have happened.”
Detrapani said Sunday and Monday are the normal days off for Chad Oulson, a finance manager at Sky Powersports in Port Richey. He said Nicole Oulson took the day off from her job at USAA so she could spend time with her husband.
The couple’s daughter was at daycare at the time of the shooting, according to neighbor Saverino Mongelli.
“I heard it was an ex-cop,” Mongelli said. “How does that happen? Just blows my mind.”
Detrapani said Chad Oulson spent much of his downtime participating in motocross.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t like him,” Detrapani said. “He was a friend to everybody, whoever he met.”
Chad Oulson was a dependable worker and fun loving person who excelled the last three years as the Powersports finance manager, said business owner Robert Lehoullier.
Lehoullier described Oulson as “a fun loving family man out to help anybody at anytime’’ who loved being a dad. He said Oulson is not an aggressive person and doesn’t understand how a minor argument could have ended in a death.
“It makes no sense to me,” Lehoullier said. “Why would you shoot somebody over a disagreement over a cell phone?”
Tribune reporters Eddie Daniels and José Patiño Girona contributed to this report.