A highly-regarded former police captain who shot dead a man texting in a Florida cinema has told detectives he was in fear of being attacked.
A judge last night ordered Curtis Reeves, 71, who is charged with second-degree murder, to be held in custody following the death of Chad Oulson, who was shot at the cinema in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa, on Monday.
Reeves’ police personnel files show he led other agencies in gun safety training and received numerous letters of commendation for his leadership.
But Pasco County sheriff Chris Nocco said: “It didn’t matter what he had done previously in his life. You don’t shoot someone over a texting incident.”
“He must have just snapped,” Reeves’ neighbour Joe D’Andrea said, describing him as friendly, “stand-up” guy. “I’m trying to put all of this together.”
Police said the shooting happened when Reeves, who was sitting with his wife behind Mr Oulson, 43, and his wife Nichole, asked Mr Oulson to stop texting on his mobile phone where the film Lone Survivor was being shown.
Mr Oulson told Reeves he was texting with his three-year-old daughter, witness Charles Cummings said.
In a police report, sheriff’s detective Allen Proctor said Reeves spoke to Mr Oulson during the movie previews, then got up and informed management. When Reeves returned to his seat “additional words were exchanged” and Mr Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves.
Reeves told the detective that Mr Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object and he removed a .380 calibre gun from his trouser pocket. The report said Reeves fired, the bullet struck Mr Oulson in the chest and that Reeves “was in fear of being attacked”.
At last night’s court hearing, Judge Lynn Tepper said she found the evidence significant enough to refuse bail.
Reeves, who faces life in prison if convicted, spoke only to say “yes, ma’am” to the judge when she asked him if he could afford to hire his own lawyer. Appearing in court via a video link from jail, he seemed to be wearing a bullet-proof vest without a shirt underneath.
His lawyer Richard Escobar, argued that Reeves should be released because of his deep ties to the community and that he was was defending himself.
“The alleged victim attacked him,” Mr Escobar said, adding that Mr Oulson threw something, possibly popcorn, at Reeves. “At that point in time he has every right to defend himself.”
But the judge told him throwing “an unknown object does not equal taking out a gun” and shooting someone.