A fatal shooting in a Florida movie theater was apparently triggered by cellphone texting during the previews. According to reports, an argument erupted during the previews of the Mark Wahlberg action movie Lone Survivor. A man using his cellphone to text was asked to stop by one Curtis Reeves, age 71.
Reeves, a retired Tampa police officer, began arguing with a couple, Chad and Nichole Oulson, who were seated in front of him at the Cobb Grove 16 theater complex in Wesley Chapel, a northern suburb of Tampa. When Chad Oulson refused to stop texting, Reeves allegedly pulled out a pistol and began shooting. Chad Oulson was shot in the chest and killed, and his wife was wounded by gunfire.
Witnesses claim that a verbal altercation preceded the shooting, and that the alleged shooter became upset when the male victim argued with him. Reeves apparently left the theater for a brief time, before returning to his seat. The argument resumed, and the victim stood up and exchanged word with the retired police officer.
According to witness statements, the gunfire began after someone threw popcorn. It is unclear which party threw the popcorn, but shortly afterwards Reeves allegedly began firing shots from a .380 caliber handgun.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told an ABC News affiliate that Reeves was incensed by the texting and noisy behavior of the Oulsons. Reeves was subdued after the shooting by an off-duty deputy from nearby Sumter County who happened to be in the theater.
Two nurses who were in the theater came to the aid of the victims, attempting CPR techniques, but Oulson died of his injuries. Nichole Oulson suffered a non-life-threatening injury when she attempted to block her husband from the gunfire. The victims were airlifted to a nearby hospital, where the husband as pronounced dead.
Local authorities have stated that there is no indication that the couples knew each other prior to the confrontation. There were as many as 25 people in the theater at the time of the shooting.
The alleged shooter has been arrested and charged with second-degree homicide in the incident. It is not known if Reeves was authorized to carry the weapon he is charged with using in the commission of the crime.
The country has been particularly sensitive to violence in movie theaters since the 2012 mass shooting during a filming of The Dark Knight Rises in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.
The shooter arrested in the Aurora incident, one James Eagan Holmes, entered the Century 16 multiplex theater in tactical-style clothing, set of tear gas canisters, and employed multiple firearms. 12 people were killed and over 70 were wounded in that incident.
Shooting incidents such as the ones in Florida and Colorado invariably lead to a renewal of the debate between gun-rights advocates and those seeking to find away to mitigate gun violence through policy and legislation.
The facts of the Florida movie theater shooting will become more transparent as the investigation continues, but the apparent status of Reeves as a retired police officer will undoubtedly play into the narrative that emerges from this latest example of public gun violence.
By Mark Clarke