SPRING HILL — At first, he thought it was a warning shot.
Derek Friedhoff and his girlfriend, Jennie Manera, both nurses, went to the Cobb Grove 16 theater in Wesley Chapel on their day off, Jan. 13. Friedhoff said he remembers hearing bickering during the second preview before the movie Lone Survivor was supposed to start. He and Manera were a few seats away from where Curtis Reeves and Chad Oulson were having an exchange over texting. A shot sounded.
Then he saw Oulson collapse.
Friedhoff and Manera said they switched from day-off mode to the focus of a trauma room. Friedhoff said Reeves wasn't waving his gun or threatening anyone, so he figured it was safe to approach.
Friedhoff, 25, took off his shirt and pressed it against Oulson's entry wound.
Manera, 38, checked for a pulse. In 911 tapes, she can be heard saying Oulson's pulse was slow.
"We can't find it," she told the operator. "It's very weak."
Friedhoff started chest compressions and asked for a light to shine in Oulson's pupils. Oulson, 43, didn't respond. He later died at a hospital. Reeves, a 71-year-old retired Tampa police captain, faces a charge of second-degree murder.
For their actions that day, Friedhoff and Manera were honored with the Pasco Sheriff's Office's Special Service Award on Wednesday at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School as part of the agency's quarterly awards ceremony.
Friedhoff was in a cream-colored suit and Manera wore a black dress as they walked to the front of the school's auditorium to applause after their names were called. They were given plaques commending them for bravery and quick response amid a potentially life-threatening situation.
"It's on those worst of times when you see the best in people," Sheriff Chris Nocco said, "and they stood up."
Friedhoff thanked local hospitals and the Sheriff's Office.
"It was more instinct," Friedhoff said after the ceremony.
He and Manera have worked before on victims of gunshots and car wrecks. Both said they've tended to minor cuts and bruises while off duty, but never anything as severe as what happened that day. Friedhoff said he likes to think any other nurse would have done the same.
Friedhoff works at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills. Manera is a nurse at Florida Hospital Tampa. They've been dating two years and met while working at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
Neither went much into detail about the specifics of the altercation between Reeves and Oulson before the shooting. Friedhoff called the whole thing a terrible loss for both families.
Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.