An altercation between two couples at a Wesley Chapel movie theater Monday led to a shooting that left a man dead, authorities said.
The suspect was identified as 71-year-old Curtis Reeves, a retired Tampa police officer. He has been arrested on a charge of second-degree homicide.
According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Chad and Nicole Oulson got into an argument with Reeves and his wife, who were sitting behind them during previews for the 1:20 p.m. showing of the war movie Lone Survivor.
Argument started over cell phone
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said the argument began when Reeves became upset about noise the couple was making while texting on a cell phone. Nocco said Reeves asked Oulson to stop several times, and that at one point he got up and left the theater, then returned to his seat.
Nocco said Oulson then asked if Reeves had reported him to theater management for using his phone, and the two men began to argue.
At some point, Reeves shot Oulson, 43, in the chest, Nocco said. He said Nichole Oulson put her hand up to her husband's chest as the Reeves shot him, trying to stop the bullet.
Nocco said two off-duty nurses, who were also in the theater, began performing CPR and tried to save Oulson. Both victims were transported to local hospitals, but Chad Oulson died. His wife was treated for a gunshot wound to her hand, authorities said.
An off-duty Sumter County deputy was inside the theater at the time, Nocco said. Authorities said the deputy secured the gun and held Reeves until deputies arrived and took him into custody, authorities said. No other injuries were reported.
"The suspected decides to pull out a .380 (handgun), and he shoots the victim," Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "It's absolutely crazy that it would rise to this level of (violence) over somebody texting at a movie theater."
Theater evacuated after shooting
About 25 people were in the theater at the time of the shooting. The theater was evacuated, closed and cordoned off. Deputies and other law enforcement personnel converged on the scene.
Grove 16 is located off Interstate 75 and State Road 54 at 6333 Wesley Grove Blvd. It includes a restaurant theater called the CineBisto, but it isn't clear where in the building the shooting took place.
"Everybody is paranoid, scared, because a movie theater should be a safe place where people should be able to go out and enjoy themselves," Nocco said. "But what America has seen over the last couple of years is that movie theaters have become dangerous places where injuries occur."
Unlike the mass shooting that occurred inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in 2012, this was an isolated incident stemming from an argument between two couples.
Cobb Theatres released the following statement Monday afternoon:
"We are deeply saddened by the events that occurred earlier today, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. The theatre is currently closed, and we are actively working with the sheriff’s office on this investigation. 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 weapons/texting policy
The theater has a "zero tolerance policy" for "weapons of any kind" on the property as well as "use of cell phone (including talking and/or texting) or other electronic devices while inside the auditorium."
Other theater rules include:
- No excessive or loud talking.
- No use of profanity.
- No disruptive behaviors of any kind, including signs of intoxication.
- No outside food or beverage of any kind.
- Opened or unopened alcohol is not permitted to be taken out of the building.
- CinéBistro is committed to being a drug-free environment. No possession and/or use of illegal drugs of any kind.
- Proper and neat attire at the sole discretion of Management.
- Recording or taking still photos of any performance is a crime and will be prosecuted.
- Not responsible for lost or stolen items left behind.
A spokesperson with Cobb Theatres said guests with pre-purchased tickets will be issued alternative movie passes or a refund with ticket purchase confirmation at the box office once re-opened.
Retired TPD officer
According to Tampa Police, Reeves retired from the department on September 30, 1993 as a captain. Later, he was the director of security at Busch Gardens until 2005.
A TPD spokesperson said he was instrumental in establishing the department's first Tactical Response Team.
"We are not aware of any contact with the department since his departure more than 20 years ago," the statement said.
Reeves also served on the board of Crime Stoppers in Hernando County.
Neighbors who live in Reeves’ Brooksville community were shocked at the news.
"A very nice guy. Alway smiling. I've never seen him angry. Very helpful. If I needed help with something he was always there to help,” said neighbor, Bill Costas. “Totally different guy. Like I said, it just doesn't make sense to me. Not from what I know of him.”