A Florida grand jury on Friday acquitted a retired SWAT commander who fatally shot a man more than eight years ago in a movie theater following an argument over phone use. mobile.
A jury of four men and two women found Curtis J. Reeves Jr not guilty of second-degree murder in fatal shooting by Chad W. Oulson on January 13, 2014, at a screening of “Lone Survivor” at a movie theater near Tampa.
A defense attorney for Mr. Reeves argued that his client acted in self-defence when he opened fire on Mr. Oulson, who threw a bag of popcorn at Mr. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department SWAT commander. .
The ruling ended a case that sparked debates over legal weapons in public spaces and dragged on in court because of multiple appeals and pandemic-related delays.
The incident attracted more attention because it involved Florida’s Stand Your Ground lawallows a person to use deadly force without first attempting to withdraw from a dangerous situation if the person “reasonably believes” that their life is imminent.
In 2017, Florida state legislators strengthen the law and transfer the burden of proof to prosecutors. A judge ultimately denied Mr Reeves’ request to defend himself under the law but he was still able to request a self-defence at trial.
His attorney, Richard Escobar, said in his closing argument that Mr. Reeves, 71 years old at the time, was an older man who feared being attacked by the stronger Mr. Oulson, 43 years old and 6 feet 4 inches tall. Mr. Escobar said that when Mr. Reeves fired the shotgun it was purely in self-defense.
“I have never met someone who displays such anger and all the precepts you can imagine, whether it be verbal, physical, manifest,” said Mr. Reeves. testified at his trial.
He added, “I go to the theater with my family to enjoy a movie, not to be attacked by some out-of-control guy.”
Witnesses and prosecutors described a different scene.
Mr. Oulson, a Navy veteran and financial manager at a local motorcycle dealership, has dating wife. Their 22-month-old daughter, Alexis, who is staying with a stay-at-home babysitter, is unwell.
Prosecutors said concern about his daughter led Mr. Oulson to defy the ritual of going to the movies and texting the babysitter to see how his daughter was. They said filming had not yet started while Mr. Oulson was texting.
Charles Cummings, then 68 years old and a former Marine, stood in front of Mr. Reeves during the shooting. He told The New York Times in 2014 that Mr Reeves was “aggressive” and kicked the chair in front of him because “he was agitated” that Mr Oulson was using his phone in the semidark theatre. .
Mr. Reeves got up and told Mr. Oulson to stop texting. Mr. Oulson ignored him and continued. Mr. Reeves then left to find a manager, but returned alone.
Mr. Oulson complained of friction, and the two exchanged more words. Mr Oulson then threw a bag of popcorn at Mr Reeves, who then shot Mr Oulson in the chest, according to a criminal complaint.
Nicole, Oulson’s wife, placed her hand on her husband’s chest and was stabbed in the finger.
Authorities said Mr. Reeves calmly sat down, placed the gun on his lap and stared ahead. An on-duty deputy sheriff from Sumter County who saw the flash of the gun snatched the weapon from him. Authorities said Mr. Reeves initially resisted and then approved.
Ms. Oulson testified that Mr. Reeves was rude and never said, “Do you mind?” or “Sorry,” Tampa Bay Times report.
In an audio recording of an interview with police, Mr. Reeves said Mr. Oulson “continues to scream.”
Mr Reeves told detectives: “Whatever he was saying was threatening, it was enough for me to find a way out. “My wife said we should move.”
Scott Rosenwasser, the state prosecutor in the case, said in his final arguments that Mr Reeves displayed an “outburst of anger.” He said “there weren’t any imminent death threats” to Mr Reeves – just some popcorn in his face.
Mr Rosenwasser said: ‘A man was killed when popcorn was thrown.
However, Mr. Escobar disagreed, telling jurors they needed to “assess the reasonableness of that perception, not here in the comfort of a courtroom, but in a cramped theater, dark.”
Video from inside the theater shows Mr Reeves immediately pulling out his weapon after Mr Oulson threw the popcorn.
TJ Grimaldi, an attorney representing Ms. Oulson, said Saturday he was “disgusted and ashamed of the State of Florida and our legal system.”
He added that his client was “totally disbelieving and completely shocked and cannot understand how this jury was able to come to the conclusion that they did.”
When the jurors announced their verdict, Ms. Oulson was in the courtroom, visibly shaking and crying like a juror after the jurors confirmed they agreed: Mr. Reeves was not guilty. .
Mr. Reeves, who appeared stern as the sentence was read, looked toward the floor. As he left the courtroom, he leaned on his cane and hugged family members.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/us/curtis-reeves-murder-trial-acquitted.html Retired SWAT commander was involved in moviegoer’s fatal shooting