January 15

Fla. theater shooting suspect had commendable police career

As a police officer, Curtis Reeves was often praised for his problem-solving and ability to manage stressful situations.

By Tamara Lush
The Associated Press

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — A Florida sheriff says a retired Tampa police officer’s praiseworthy career doesn’t offset the severity of the charge that he shot and killed another man after an argument at a movie theater over texting.

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Curtis Reeves appears via video conference before Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper in Wesley Chapel, Fla. on Tuesday. Tepper ordered Reeves, 71, held without bond on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Monday.

The Associated Press

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Curtis Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Monday. Reeves was ordered held without bond Tuesday pending another hearing.

As a police officer for more than two decades until his retirement in 1993, Reeves regularly received outstanding evaluations and numerous letters of commendation for his leadership skills and training he led for other agencies on gun safety and other topics.

Still, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said Tuesday: “It didn’t matter what he had done previously in his life. You don’t shoot someone over a texting incident.”

As a police officer, Reeves was often praised for his problem-solving and ability to manage stressful situations.

“Captain Reeves not only has the ability to act decisively when necessary but has the foresight to initiate the proper course of action to avoid conflict,” a supervisor remarked in one job performance review.

However, early in his career, one supervisor noted: “Reeves has a tendency to be impatient in regards to legal matters and practices now in force ... and may be abrupt with complainants in some areas of the city.”

In 1968, he was reprimanded for carelessly handling a city weapon.

“He must have just snapped,” said neighbor Joe D’Andrea, who described Reeves as a friendly, “stand-up” guy. “I’m trying to put all of this together.”

Pasco County Sheriff’s officials say Reeves initially asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.

Sheriff’s Detective Allen Proctor wrote that Reeves spoke to Oulson during the movie previews, then got up and informed management.

When Reeves returned to his seat “additional words were exchanged” and Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, the report said.

After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that’s when he removed a .380-caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he “was in fear of being attacked.”

The sheriff said at a news conference that Reeves’ son — who was off duty from his job as a Tampa officer — was walking into the theater when the shooting happened. Nocco said Reeves briefly struggled with an off-duty deputy but released the weapon. The gun was jammed and unable to fire again.

Pasco Sgt. Steve Greiner was among the first officers in the theater. When asked about Reeves’ demeanor, Greiner replied: “He was very calm. He was seated in the chair, looking at the screen.”

At the hearing, Judge Lynn Tepper said she found the evidence significant enough to warrant the no-bond order.

Reeves faces life in prison if convicted. He only spoke once during his court appearance, to say “Yes, ma’am” to the judge when she asked him if he could afford to hire his own attorney. Reeves appeared in court via a video link from the jail.

Reeves’ attorney, Richard Escobar, argued that his client should be released because of his ties to the community.

Escobar said the probable cause document was “quite weak” and that Reeves was defending himself.

“The alleged victim attacked him,” Escobar said, adding that Oulson threw something, possibly popcorn, at Reeves. “At that point in time he has every right to defend himself.”

The judge said that throwing “an unknown object does not equal taking out a gun” and shooting someone.

(Continued on page 2)

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