January 14th, 2014
06:43 AM ET

Dad's Texting to Daughter Sparks Fatal Shooting in Movie Theater

It started with a father sending text messages to his daughter during the previews of a movie.

It ended with the 43-year-old man shot dead amid the theater seats, and a 71-year-old retired police officer in custody.

The shooting Monday during a 1:20 p.m. showing of "Lone Survivor" at a Wesley Chapel, Florida, movie theater escalated from an objection to cell phone use, to a series of arguments, to the sudden and deadly shooting, according to police and witnesses.

As a male moviegoer texted, the man seated behind him objected, and asked the texter to put his phone away.

They argued several times, according to police and witnesses, and the man who was texting watched as the other man walked out of the theater. Curtis Reeves, a retired police officer, apparently went seeking a theater employee to complain about the texting, police said.

Two seats away Charles Cummings and his son watched the squabbling.

When Reeves returned, he was without a manager.

"He came back very irritated," Cummings said.

The man who had been texting, Chad Oulson, got up and turned to Reeves to ask him if he had gone to tell on him for his texting. Oulson reportedly said, in effect: I was just sending a message to my young daughter.

Voices were raised. Popcorn was thrown. And then came something unimaginable - except maybe in a movie. A gun shot.

Oulson was fatally wounded. His wife was hit, too, through the hand as she raised her hand in front of her husband as the shooter drew a handgun.

Oulson staggered toward the Cummings and fell on them, Charles Cummings said.

The shooter sat down and put the gun in his lap.

It happened that an off-duty deputy sheriff from Sumter County was among the 25 people theater at the Grove 16 complex. He rushed to the scene to make sure no more shots were fired and the shooter would stay put.

It also happened that there were two nurses there and one came to Oulson's side and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

Oulson later died. His wife, Nicole, suffered a non-life threatening wound to her hand.

"I can't believe people would bring a pistol to a movie," said Cummings, a Vietnam veteran who had celebrating his birthday by going to a movie with his son.

Reeves was sitting with his wife, Pasco County Sherriff Chris Nocco said.

CNN affiliate Bay News 9 reported that Reeves was arrested on a charge of second-degree homicide. It could not be determined Monday night whether he had retained an attorney.

Reeves retired in 1993 as a captain with the police department in nearby Tampa. He was also director of security at Busch Gardens until 2005, the station reported.

Bay News 9 spoke to a neighbor of Oulson's who said the dead man was a very nice guy who he couldn't envision being involved in an incident like this.

"Always smiling. I've never seen him angry," Bill Costas said. If I needed help with something he was always there.

"Totally different guy. Like I said, it just doesn't make sense to me. Not from what I know of him."

The shooting happened at about 1:30 p.m. inside one of the theaters at the Grove 16 complex, sheriff's spokeswoman Melanie Snow said.

"This was an isolated altercation between two guests that escalated unexpectedly. The safety, security and comfort of our guests and team members are always our top priorities, and we are truly heartbroken by this incident," Cobb Theatres, which operates the Grove complex, said in a written statement.

On the theaters' website is a list of prohibited items and actions. Among them: No cell phone use, including texting, in the theater auditorium. And no weapons allowed.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Mary C.

    this is the world we live in now. People don't care about anything but themselves and believe they have the right to do exactly as they please.

    February 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  2. Brent C.

    Crime: Texting in a theatre
    Punishment: Death!
    Is this now logical and rational in the United States? What have we been reduced to?

    January 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  3. Kat

    Wow, 3 comments, and all seem to blame the texter? How is sending a message during the previews (commercials most of us would rather do without) worthy of being shot?! I hope Reeves is locked away for the rest of his life. As a former cop, he should know better. As a human being he should know better! And please don't let the jury buy some lame PTSD claim. Any man who would shoot over a non-violent offense should not be allowed to carry firearms. My heart goes out to the wife and daughter, and I hope the little girl doesn't blame herself, it was the evil ex-cop's fault, not hers.

    January 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Don't text at a movie! GAWD!

    January 15, 2014 at 3:42 am | Reply
  5. Thomas Hood

    I welcome this permanent termination of a public nuisance. If I am on the jury, Curtis Reeves will never be convicted of anything. I applaud his taking action against the nuisance of cell phones. Cell phones are the new cigarettes, a way to annoy others in public. If laws and regulations against public nuisances were enforced, which they aren't, such incidents would not occur.

    January 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Reply
    • Kat

      It was during the previews. How can you support this? Killing someone over texting, that's just sick.

      January 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  6. Rob

    Why would the guy not just leave the theater to go text his daughter? It sounds like he got confrontational and then started it up again after the guy went to tell the movie theater manager. Shooting someone isn't acceptable at all, but like road rage this US attitude of "my world" existing on the road, in the theater, at a store, and everywhere else entitles "me" to do what I want and bend rules and get upset when you confront me. Part of me, sadly, doesn't feel bad, and I should...but I see it every day on the road and in life. Everyone's got a chip on their shoulder and everyone is trying to bend the rules of "not me" because "I have something more important"...but really they can do their important stuff ahead of time or away from others to not impact them...but they don't, thus these rage issues keep happening. And when two angry people confront, one is going to get hurt and one is going to jail.

    January 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Reply

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