Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Movie theater shooting suspect was once go-to guy on Tampa police force

TAMPA — In the 1980s, Curtis Reeves Jr. was the go-to guy for some of the toughest calls at the Tampa Police Department.

Hostage situations, suspect standoffs, civil disorder — the chiefs knew he could handle it, a close friend and co-worker recalled Monday.

Reeves launched the agency's Tactical Response Team, often referred to as the SWAT team, said retired Tampa police Officer Carson Helms, who worked on the squad when Reeves was in charge.

"In my opinion, he was the best of the best," Helms, 59, said.

Pasco County deputies say Reeves, 71, fatally shot another moviegoer Monday at the Cobb Grove 16 theater, near Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel.

It's an allegation that shocked many of Reeves' friends and neighbors. Helms said he felt nauseous when he got a call about it early Monday afternoon.

"I don't know what caused this to happen," Helms said. "I think Curtis is a good man."

Reeves retired from the Tampa Police Department in 1993 as a captain. After that, he worked for Busch Gardens, eventually becoming director of security.

He left the theme park in 2005 and retired near Brooksville, settling into a large ranch-style house in Mountainview Estates with his wife, Vivian. He'd ride his motorcycle and sometimes hunt.

They had rocking chairs on their front porch, an American flag in the yard. Their son, Officer Matthew Reeves, has worked for Tampa police since 2003.

Though Helms retired to North Carolina, he still considers Curtis Reeves a close friend. They met for dinner in October when Reeves and his wife visited. Reeves seemed happy and normal, Helms recalled.

"There was no reason for me to think there was anything going on in his life to cause this," Helms said.

He wonders if Reeves feared for his or his wife's safety in the movie theater. On Monday, Pasco investigators did not say anything like that had occurred, but Helms said law enforcement officers — both current and retired — know that is the only justification for deadly force.

At Reeves' home Monday evening, a man asked a reporter to leave. Neighbors in the rural community of Spring Lake described the 71-year-old as kind, generous and a family man.

As the sun set, they were quickly learning of Reeves' arrest from news reports and journalists knocking on their doors.

Joe D'Andrea, 64, said he has lived near Reeves for more than a decade. D'Andrea saw him at a few neighborhood parties and on Reeves' frequent walks through the neighborhood with his wife, whom D'Andrea described as "a sweetheart, a beautiful lady."

Besides walking in Mountainview, D'Andrea said, Reeves liked to ride his motorcycle through the surrounding countryside.

"Curtis is a nice guy. Every time I talked to him, he seemed like a top-shelf person," D'Andrea said. "I don't know what would have pushed him over the edge."

When Martin Mazurek moved in a few years ago and started making improvements to his home, Reeves offered to lend him tools and help.

Mazurek was trying to make sense of how Reeves could be accused of shooting a stranger in a movie theater.

"It must have escalated somehow," he speculated. "He must have felt threatened."

About 18 months ago, neighbor Matthew Harris found that Reeves could speak up when something was bothering him.

Harris said that he was working on his car stereo in his driveway when Reeves approached and asked him to turn down the volume. Harris said Reeves mentioned that he was a former police officer and security guard.

"He kind of snapped at me at first, but then he calmed down," Harris recalled.

He said Reeves told him to holler if he ever needed anything. Then the two men shook hands, and Reeves walked away.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Dan DeWitt contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Movie theater shooting suspect was once go-to guy on Tampa police force 01/13/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 10:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended

    Nation

    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Workers from the Advanced Granite Solutions in Maryland console each other Wednesday after a shooting there killed three people. Officers said the attacker fled and also shot a man in Delaware.    as police and Emergency Medical Services respond to a shooting at a business park in the Edgewood area of Harford County, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.  A gunman opened fire at the office park killing several co-workers and wounded others, authorities said.  (Matt Button/The Baltimore Sun via AP) MDBAE105
  2. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  3. The two Ricks tangle at what may be final debate

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — In what was likely the last mayoral forum before the Nov. 7 election, Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker started out small, discussing neighborhood issues like recycling and neighborhood funding. They ended tangling over familiar subjects: the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, sewage …

    Ex-Mayor Rick Baker, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, debated familiar topics. The Times’ Adam Smith moderated.
  4. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners

    Business

    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  5. UF president Kent Fuchs: 'Charlottesville changed everything' (w/video)

    K12

    GAINESVILLE — Wednesday evening, hazy rumors of an impending Neo-Nazi march reached some wary protesters. A few quickly rallied to denounce the marchers in downtown Gainesville, only to find plazas empty but for police.

    University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs talks with reporters Wednesday about white nationalist Richard Spencer's planned speech on Thursday. He said of Spencer: "In a small way, he is causing us to redouble our focus on supporting actions that are the opposite of what he wants." [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]