Retired SWAT officer acquitted in movie theater shooting

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(AP)

A Florida jury on Friday acquitted a retired police SWAT commander for fatally shooting another moviegoer during an argument over the use of a cellphone.

Trial deliberations began on Friday and media reported that the six-person jury reached its verdict late at night.

Retired Tampa Police Captain Curtis Reeves, now 79, had been charged with second-degree murder for killing Chad Oulson during an altercation at a suburban movie theater on January 13, 2014.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Richard Escobar said Oulson, 43, made Reeves, then 71, believe his life was in danger by rolling over, screaming and holding his hand. hand towards him. He said Reeves decided to shoot based on his nearly 30 years in law enforcement and his hours of training in the justifiable use of deadly force. Escobar said Reeves didn’t have to wait to get hit before defending.

Reeves “had more knowledge, more experience, more education in this area than anyone in this courtroom,” Escobar said. “It’s a dangerous world.”

But prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser countered that Reeves killed Oulson because he threw popcorn in his face, which angered him. After all, it violated his self-image as an “alpha male.”

“He wasn’t afraid of anything,” Rosenwasser said.

No one disputes most basic facts. Reeves and Oulson did not know each other. They had gone with their wives to see a matinee screening of the Afghan war film “Lone Survivor,” the Reeves sitting in the back row, the Oulsons a row in front of them, slightly to the right.

As previews began and despite the announcement to turn off cell phones, Oulson continued to text her 22-month-old daughter’s daycare. Reeves leaned over and told him to stop – Reeves said politely, Oulson’s widow and others say that sounded like an order. After Oulson flatly refused, perhaps with profanity, Reeves complained to the manager. When Reeves returned, seeing that Oulson had put away his phone, he told Oulson that if he hadn’t told the manager if he knew he would comply.

What happened in the next few seconds is where the stories diverge until Oulson grabs Reeves’ popcorn and throws it back in Reeves’ face. Reeves drew his .380 handgun, lunged forward and fired a round, killing Oulson and nearly severing the finger of Oulson’s wife, Nicole, who had reached out to lead her husband back to his seat. .

Escobar said the evidence supports their claim that, before being shot during the disputed seconds, Oulson threw his cellphone at Reeves, punching him in the face, then appeared ready to climb into the seats and attack, tending hand towards him.

Reeves said Thursday that in his entire career in law enforcement, he had never encountered someone so out of control and that he feared he was about to be killed. Given his age, arthritis and other physical ailments, Reeves maintained that he could only have defended himself by shooting.

Escobar said it took less than three-quarters of a second from the popcorn toss to the shot. It’s too fast for that to be the reason for Reeves’ firing, he said.

“Impossible,” Escobar said.

But Rosenwasser maintained that Reeves’ story was a lie. Security video does not show Oulson throwing his cellphone, the prosecutor said, and Reeves had no facial injuries where he says it hit him. But the video shows Oulson grabbing Reeves’ bag of popcorn, throwing it at him, and Reeves shooting. Witnesses said they heard Reeves mutter, “Put me some popcorn.”

He said Reeves’ story about being scared for his life, being a physical ‘fragile egg’ when he had just returned from a hunting trip and Oulson was out of control are all inventions. They aim, Rosenwasser said, to cover up the fact that Reeves has an “alpha male mindset” that enjoyed the adrenaline rush of being a police officer and SWAT commander. He killed Oulson in anger after having his ego hurt by being challenged and having popcorn thrown in his face, Rosenwasser said.

He said Reeves never fired his gun as he went through the robbery/homicide office, fugitive arrest and SWAT. Yet somehow this argument at the movies over a cellphone escalated to the point where Reeves faced the most out of control, scariest person he had ever met. and he had to shoot.

“In his entire career, is that the most he’s ever been afraid of?” Absolutely unreal,” Rosenwasser said.

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