A man was killed and his wife injured at a Florida movie theater this afternoon. A former Tampa police officer, Curtis Reeves, is the reported suspect. He was led away from the scene in handcuffs and has been charged with second-degree murder according to Pasco County Sheriff, Chris Nocco.
The shooting occurred in the town of Wesley Chapel, just outside Tampa, at the Grove 16 movie theater complex. It happened during the previews to an afternoon showing of the latest Mark Wahlberg action film, Lone Survivor. There were approximately 25 patrons in the theater at the time of the crime.
The victims have been identified as 43-year-old Chad Oulsen and his wife, Nicole. Witnesses report that Chad Oulson, was texting with his young daughter on his cell phone, which led to an argument with Reeves who was sitting behind the couple with his wife. The argument reportedly became extremely heated and Reeves walked out of the theater briefly. A witness said that when Reeves returned he appeared “very irritated.”
The argument apparently reignited and escalated even further. One of the two men reportedly threw some popcorn, Nicole Oulsen raised her hand in the air and Reeves pulled out a .380 caliber handgun and pulled the trigger once, hitting Nicole Oulsen’s hand and fatally shooting Chad Oulsen in the chest.
According to Nocco, when Reeves exited the theater, it was to inform a movie theater employee that Oulsen was texting in violation of theater policy. Witnesses say that part of the argument upon Reeves’ return was related to Oulsen confronting Reeves’ about reporting him.
After Oulsen was shot, he reportedly fell onto a fellow movie patron and his son, leaving them covered in blood splatter. The man said that his son left the theater to call 911. He further reported a feeling of disbelief that this could happen over an issue so insignificant as the use of a cell phone.
A nurse who happened to be at the movie theater attempted to save Oulsen by administering CPR until emergency personnel arrived. He was later pronounced dead at a Tampa area hospital. His wife’s injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
An off-duty deputy from another county reportedly ensured that the alleged shooter, 71-year-old Reeves, did not leave the theater after the incident. Witnesses report that he simply put his gun on his lap and took a seat.
The Tampa Police Department reports that Reeves, its former officer charged in today’s fatal movie theater shooting, retired from active police duty approximately 20 years ago and that they are unaware of any further contact with the department since the time of his retirement.
The movie theater was evacuated and shut down following the early afternoon shooting. Representatives of the company that operates the movie theater complex, Cobb Theatres, describe feeling “heartbroken” over the incident and indicate that they are cooperating fully with authorities investigating the fatal shooting.
For many, today’s shooting brings back the memory of the horrific 2012 massacre that took place in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. 12 people died and more than 70 were injured in that attack. The alleged shooter in that case is still awaiting justice. What justice will look like for the former Florida police officer charged with second-degree murder in today’s fatal movie theater shooting remains to be seen as well.
By Michele Wessel
NBC 11 Alive