Florida gunman at 'Lone Survivor' screening says he feared attack

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 14, 2014 2:48 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - The man who shot and killed a fellow moviegoer during an argument over cellphone use in a Florida theater screening the new combat drama "Lone Survivor" is a retired police officer who says he feared being attacked.

The retired Tampa police captain, who was charged with second-degree murder after Monday's shooting, was due to appear before a 6th Judicial Circuit Court judge in Pasco County on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

Identified as Curtis Reeves, 71, he is accused of fatally shooting 43-year-old Chad Oulson in the chest.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Reeves was watching coming attractions with his wife when they got into an argument with Oulson and his wife, who were seated directly in front of them in the Tampa-area Grove 16 movie theater.

Oulson was using a cellphone to text message or make a mobile video call to a daycare center or babysitter looking after his 3-year-old daughter.

According to an arrest affidavit released by the sheriff's office, Reeves said he had brandished and fired his semi-automatic handgun after Oulson stood up and struck him in the face with an unknown object.

Oulson's wife, Nicole, was wounded in the hand by the same gunshot that killed her husband, police said.

Although the affidavit quotes Reeves as saying he was "in fear of being attacked" when he fired his gun, witnesses said Oulson had only thrown a bag of popcorn at him.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters outside the movie theater on Monday that it was "absolutely crazy" for an argument over a cellphone to escalate so badly out of control.

A lawyer for Reeves could not be reached for immediate comment, and it was not clear whether he would seek immunity from prosecution under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.

The controversial statute allows people to use deadly force to defend themselves from serious injury, rather than retreating to avoid confrontation, if they believe their life is in danger.

"Lone Survivor," based on a nonfiction New York Times best seller, stars Mark Wahlberg and tells the story of four Navy SEALs on an ill-fated covert mission in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)