Tuesday, September 25, 2018
News Roundup

Defense, prosecution offer different perspectives in Pasco theater 'stand your ground' hearing

DADE CITY — Curtis Reeves sat in the middle of a darkened theater where patrons were watching previews for shoot-em-ups like Sabotage and Robocop. There was an argument about a cell phone, authorities said, then the former Tampa cop shot and killed another man.

But on Monday, in a Pasco County courtroom, a judge heard a different version of the events. In this one, Reeves was an old man in declining health who acted out of fear when another man attacked him.

The first day of Reeves' long-awaited stand your ground hearing in the 2014 shooting death of Chad Oulson was marked by contradictory images. The prosecutor said the 74-year-old Reeves provoked the confrontation. Reeves' attorneys said Oulson's actions made him think he was in danger of serious assault.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle is hearing evidence to determine whether Reeves should be immune from prosecution under Florida's controversial stand your ground statute. The law says a person has no duty to retreat when faced with a violent confrontation and can use deadly force if he or she fears death or great bodily harm.

If the judge rules he is not immune, Reeves will head toward trial on a second-degree murder charge.

The first two witnesses Monday were Reeves' two adult children. Jennifer Shaw and Matthew Reeves spoke of the loving and devoted Dad they knew growing up and of the physical ailments he endured as he grew older.

Matthew Reeves, who followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a Tampa police officer, was present when the elder Reeves shot Oulson, 43, at the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel.

With his father watching from a defense table steps away, the son described the scene. The featured movie, Lone Survivor, hadn't yet started when he arrived to meet his parents. Previews were showing as he rounded a corner into an almost pitch-black auditorium, scanning the room to find them. During a lull between previews, he said, he heard his father shout something to the effect of "Get out of my face."

Soon after, he saw a muzzle flash from a single gunshot — and the silhouette of the man his father had just shot.

As the lights came up, Oulson took "an exaggerated step down," then hobbled down the aisle toward where Matthew Reeves stood.

"Once he stepped back, I was able to see my father behind him," Matthew Reeves testified. His father's glasses were off-balance and he was holding the side of his face.

The younger Reeves, with assistance from another movie patron, laid Oulson between the seats, lifted his shirt, and began to try to stem the flow of blood.

When a nurse arrived, he left to wash blood from his hands, then returned to the theater to escort his mother outside. Vivian Reeves was sitting beside her husband when the shooting happened. She and her son were both later interviewed by detectives.

Reeves is arguing that he killed Oulson in self-defense. The two had argued when Reeves told Oulson to turn off his cell phone during the movie previews. Defense attorneys say Oulson responded with an expletive, which prompted Reeves to leave to notify a manager.

When he returned, the argument escalated. Defense attorneys say Oulson threw a cell phone and a bag of popcorn at Reeves before Reeves pulled a pistol and fired.

In an opening statement, Reeves' attorney Dino Michaels emphasized his client's long career with the Tampa Police Department and his extensive training on the use of force. He also noted Reeves' health problems.

Dr. Michael Foley, a forensic radiologist, testified about X-rays and MRI records of Reeves body, which were taken in 2015. The records show Reeves suffered from arthritis and osteoporosis in the bones and joints of his hands, wrists, shoulders, knees and hips. He had undergone a hip replacement. He also had several herniated discs and bone spurs in his spine.

The doctor said the conditions were not uncommon among people Reeves' age.

Donna Cohen, a University of South Florida professor who has conducted extensive research on aging, testified in general terms about the sense of vulnerability people develop as they get older. As their physical health declines, they become more attuned to their own weaknesses — and the incapacity to respond to stressful situations.

"Every old person is aware of their imperfections, their frailties," defense attorney Richard Escobar said afterward.

Reeves' children both testified that as their father grew older, he could no longer participate in many physical activities and exercises he used to enjoy.

Shaw, his daughter, became emotional at times as she described his deteriorating health.

"What I have observed is my parents have trouble functioning on everyday normal activities that you and I take for granted," Shaw said.

The defense has argued that Reeves feared he was about to be seriously injured when Oulson confronted him, which led him to use deadly force.

"This case is about perception," Michaels said. "It's important we understand who Mr. Reeves is."

Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin, in his opening statement, countered that video from the theater shows Reeves leaning forward, entering Oulson's space for "nonconsensual contact" three separate times. It also shows, Martin said, Oulson backing away from Reeves after throwing the popcorn.

"Once the popcorn is tossed, it is over," Martin said. "You can't prevent that by shooting Mr. Oulson."

"His conduct is nothing but retaliation for a former police officer who is used to having people do what he says."

JUDGE WILL DECIDE: Conflicting stories in theater shooting

The court has set aside two weeks for the hearing. Testimony resumes Tuesday morning.

Stay with tampabay.com for live coverage from the courtroom throughout the day.

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

   
Comments
Tampa Bay Whole Foods can now deliver through Amazon Prime Now

Tampa Bay Whole Foods can now deliver through Amazon Prime Now

Tampa Bay Whole Foods Market shoppers can finally get organic goodies delivered to their homes in a few hours as members of Amazon Prime. Amazon announced today that Whole Foods has added Tampa, nine other metro areas and parts of Seattle and New Yor...
Updated: 7 hours ago
New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

TAMPA — Danick Martel didn't have much of an opportunity to ease his way into his time with the Lightning.On Sunday, 10,164 Lightning fans flocked to Amalie Arena to watch Martel's debut practice, also known as Fan Fest.As if there was not alre...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Jake Faria struggles in loss to Yankees

Rays journal: Jake Faria struggles in loss to Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG — After being formally eliminated Monday from the postseason chase, the Rays on Tuesday turned their focus to addressing some issues for next season.One is what to make of RHP Jake Faria, whose follow-up season to his impressive ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning journal: Kucherov leaves preseason game with lower-body injury

Lightning journal: Kucherov leaves preseason game with lower-body injury

F Nikita Kucherov played in the first period against the Panthers, but he did not return for the second.Midway through the second, the Lightning ruled him out for the rest of the game with a lower-body injury.Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not want t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

ST. PETERSBURGTommy Pham has been doing some impressive things for the Rays since coming off the DL after coming over from the Cardinals in a July 31 trade.Like hitting .357 in 32 games, posting a 1.087 OPS and reaching base in a career-best 27 strai...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Tuesday, September 25

Tuesday’s scoreboardBoys swimmingShorecrest 181, Tampa Prep 133Girls swimmingShorecrest 159, Tampa Prep 135
Updated: 2 hours ago
Wesley Chapel High instructional assistant accused of abusing special needs student on bus

Wesley Chapel High instructional assistant accused of abusing special needs student on bus

A Wesley Chapel High School special education instructional assistant was arrested Monday on two counts of child abuse after a school bus video showed him pushing a restrained special needs student down by the back of the head multiple times, accordi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

FEMA rolling out new flood zone maps for Tampa Bay counties

Thousands of Tampa Bay-area property owners could soon find themselves with new flood zone designations on their homes and businesses.The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed a years-long study to update flood zone maps in Hillsborough, ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Markeis McGlockton’s autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

Markeis McGlockton’s autopsy shows he turned away from shooter

The autopsy for Markeis McGlockton, who was killed in a shooting that set off a debate about Florida’s stand your ground law, shows the bullet entered his body at an angle and tore through his heart and both lungs.The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Madeira Beach's dirty laundry gets aired during ethics hearing

Madeira Beach's dirty laundry gets aired during ethics hearing

By Sheila Mullane Estrada Times Correspondent CLEARWATER — For seven hours, attorneys questioned and sometimes shouted at witnesses testifying either for or against Madeira Beach Commissioner Nancy Oakley in an ethics hearing that will determ...
Updated: 5 hours ago