Thursday, April 26, 2018
Public safety

911 recording captures Pasco movie theater chaos

WESLEY CHAPEL — In the dark of auditorium 10, the caller punched 911 on his cell phone.

"There's been a gunshot at the Cobb theater,'' he says. "There's someone shot."

In the background, screams.

"Oh my God!"

Somebody starts chest compressions. "Come on buddy, breathe!"

The emergency dispatcher probes desperately for more information. Who got shot?

"Just a person seeing a movie,'' the caller replies.

Is the shooter there? What's he look like?

The caller whispers: "He's right behind me.''

The chilling scene unfolded in 11 minutes on Jan. 13 at the Cobb Grove 16 theater complex off Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel. On Friday, Pasco County emergency officials released the first 911 call made after Chad Oulson, 43, was shot once in the chest minutes before the Navy SEALs movie Lone Survivor was about to begin. Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, a retired Tampa police captain, was charged with second-degree murder. He remains in the Pasco County jail without bail.

Reeves became angry when Oulson sent a text message to his 22-month-old daughter's caregiver, authorities said. Reeves left to complain to the theater managers but returned alone. The men argued, and popcorn flew. Reeves' attorneys say he was hit with an "unknown dark object" and felt threatened when he fired a .380-caliber pistol.

Two nurses tried to revive Oulson, who later died at a hospital. Oulson's wife, Nicole, 33, suffered an injury to a finger on her left hand while putting it in front of her husband, a finance manager at Sky Powersports in Port Richey.

Before Friday, the account of the shooting was limited mostly to what was written in sheriff's reports or what officials said at news conferences or court hearings. The recording offered the first glimpse of the chaos, desperation and fear that engulfed those attending the matinee.

In the recording, the first dispatcher transfers the caller to the Sheriff's Office, and the phone rings repeatedly. But that's misleading, Pasco County officials said. The dispatchers never abandoned the caller and in addition, seven dispatchers took 30 more calls from the same scene.

A computer log shows Fire Rescue units were sent to the theater at 1:30 p.m., less than a minute after the first call. They arrived six minutes later. Deputies were sent at 1:31 p.m. and arrived on the property at 1:33 p.m. They arrested Reeves at 1:40 p.m.

Rescue crews aren't allowed to enter a crime scene until deputies have secured it, said Dona Fernandes, Pasco's public safety communications director. Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said the deputies weren't sure what type of shooting they were dealing with after multiple callers phoned in conflicting details.

One caller reported a masked gunman, while others gave different vehicle descriptions.

The first deputies also had to wait on backup, Doll said, "before a group could safely and methodically make their way into what could be a very dangerous situation inside the theater."

Just before the first deputies arrived, the dispatcher asked the caller yes-or-no questions about the gunman who sat and watched from only a few feet away.

Dispatcher: "Can you give me the color of his shirt?"

Caller: "Like light blue."

Dispatcher: "He still has the gun?"

Caller: "Yeah."

The dispatcher asked the caller to point out the gunman when deputies arrived.

"Will you be able to do that discreetly? he asked.

Yes, the caller said.

Another man giving first aid to Oulson then came on the line.

"I'm a nurse, sir," he said. "So at this point I'm just trying to make sure this guy stays with us."

"This guy's pulse is low," he said. "This guy's pulse is weak. We need an ambulance bad."

A woman came on the phone and asked when help would arrive.

"Where are they?" she asked. "His pulse is very slow. . . . I can't find it anymore."

The dispatcher assured her deputies were on the way. He told her to stay on the line until they arrived.

Someone asked for a flashlight. Immediately afterward, deputies arrived.

"Okay, good job you guys," the dispatcher said.

"Thank you, sir," the woman replied.

 
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