A moviegoer lost his life inside a Pasco County theater Monday afternoon after a dispute over texting with a retired police officer.
According to the sheriff's office, the dispute happened before the 1:20 showing of 'Lone Survivor' had even gotten underway at the Cobb CineBistro at Grove 16 complex on Wesley Grove Blvd.
Investigators say two couples had gotten into an argument over noise.
"The victim was on his cell phone; he was texting. We believe he was making some kind of noise. This noise led to an altercation between the suspect and the victim," Sheriff Chris Nocco explained.
A witness recalled seeing the agitated man -- later identified by deputies as Curtis Reeves -- get up and leave in an apparent attempt to find a manager. When he came back alone, the argument escalated.
Charles Cummings told FOX 13 he heard the victim say he was texting his 3-year-old daughter before Reeves pulled out a pistol.
"Their voices start going up, there seems to be a confrontation, somebody throws popcorn, then bang, he was shot," said Cummings, who was there to celebrate his birthday. "I heard the victim say, 'I can't believe...,' then he fell on us."
"I asked if the guy was OK, and he started gurgling blood and then fell," recalled Cummings' son, who said he ran to call 911.
Both the man, identified by deputies as Chad Oulson, and his wife Nicole, were struck by the single shot. Oulson, 43, was hit in the chest and died, while Nicole was hit in the hand when she put her hand up in front of her husband. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
An off-duty Sumter County deputy inside the theater was able to grab the gun and detain Reeves until deputies arrived, the sheriff added.
Reeves, a 71-year-old retired Tampa police officer, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. A 2005 Tampa Bay Times article also described him as a former director of security for Busch Gardens.
Moments after he was named as the suspect, Tampa police issued a statement saying Reeves had retired back in 1993 as a captain.
"He was instrumental in establishing the department's first Tactical Response Team," the statement explained. "We are not aware of any contact with the department since his departure more than 20 years ago."
Nocco said his detectives considered if this could be a 'stand your ground' case but decided the criteria did not apply.
"It's absolutely crazy it would rise to this level over somebody just texting in a movie theater," he offered.
"I can't believe people would bring a gun to a movie," added Cummings, a Marine who served in Vietnam. "I can't believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn or even a cell phone."
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