Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Attorneys for retired Tampa cop accused in movie theater shooting say he acted in self-defense

Attorneys for Curtis Reeves Jr., the retired Tampa police captain accused of murdering another man in a Wesley Chapel movie theater last month, say their client should have been charged with manslaughter at most and is entitled to be freed on bail.

Tampa attorney Richard Escobar also maintained that Reeves was acting in self-defense in the Jan. 13 shooting.

Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of 43-year-old Chad Oulson, who was texting his 22-month-old daughter's caregiver during previews before a showing of Lone Survivor.

Authorities said an irritated Reeves left briefly to complain to management about the texting. He returned alone, and the argument continued. Witnesses said Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves. His attorneys say their client was hit by an unknown dark object and felt threatened. He pulled a .380 semi-automatic pistol from his pocket and fired, hitting Oulson in the chest. The shot also injured a finger on the left hand of Oulson's wife, Nicole.

The case has attracted national attention because of the circumstances and the possibility that Reeves will invoke the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.

The motion points to several elements of that law, which says force, including deadly force, is justified when a person feels threatened.

"Clearly … Mr. Oulson had committed at least one, possibly two felony crimes against Mr. Reeves prior to the use of deadly force," it states.

Escobar argued that the fact that Reeves left to complain to management shows he acted "peacefully and prudently" to solve the problem. It was Oulson, Escobar wrote, who committed battery against Reeves under a state law that protects residents 65 and older.

Escobar also pointed to Reeves' resume, which lists his 27 years as a Tampa police officer and the founder of its SWAT team, as evidence that Reeves knew what constituted a threat and acted in self-defense.

"Mr. Reeves built his career on recognizing imminent danger and responding appropriately," the motion states. Reeves, it says, "was in the best position to perceive that the danger to him and his elderly wife was imminent and that deadly force was absolutely necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or the commission of a felony/forcible felony."

One day after Reeves' arrest, Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper denied bail, saying probable cause for the murder charge existed. Reeves is scheduled to appear Wednesday before Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa who will decide whether to set bail.

In seeking Reeves' release, Escobar claims that the murder charge was misapplied.

"Although exceptions exist, the crime of second-degree murder is normally committed by a person who knows the victim and has had time to develop a level of enmity toward the victim," he wrote. "Hatred, spite, evil intent, or ill will require more than an instant to develop."

A charge of manslaughter, used in cases where people have been determined to overreact to a perceived threat, is more appropriate, Escobar said. If that had been the charge, the Constitution would require a judge to set bail.

Escobar also cited Reeves' lifelong residency in the area and his extensive family as evidence that he poses no flight risk. He submitted letters from 25 former co-workers or friends of Reeves as character witnesses.

Attorneys for retired Tampa cop accused in movie theater shooting say he acted in self-defense 01/31/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 10:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?


    The following is from the Miami Herald:

  3. GOP senators blink on a big chance to repeal 'Obamacare'


    WASHINGTON — After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Senate Republicans demonstrated Wednesday they don't have the stomach to repeal "Obamacare" when it really counts, as the Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.

    U.S. Sen. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  4. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy


    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]
  5. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday


    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]