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Suspect confident of acquittal in fatal movie theater shooting

Curtis Reeves sits in handcuffs after the shooting in which authorities say he used the pistol below. He faces murder and aggravated battery charges.
Curtis Reeves sits in handcuffs after the shooting in which authorities say he used the pistol below. He faces murder and aggravated battery charges.
Published Apr. 11, 2014

Three days after killing a man in a dark movie theater, Curtis Reeves called home from jail, confident of his innocence.

"When all the facts come out, we all should be in good shape," Reeves told his family in a Jan. 16 phone call, among new evidence released by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office and Reeves' defense team.

Reeves, a 71-year-old retired Tampa police officer, faces charges of second-degree murder and aggravated battery in the Jan. 13 shooting. Authorities say he shot and killed 43-year-old Chad Oulson and injured his wife, Nicole, in a dispute over texting during previews at the Grove Cobb 16 theater in Wesley Chapel.

Reeves told detectives he feared for his life because Oulson was attacking him.

The evidence released this week contains photographs from inside Auditorium 10 showing popcorn and a cellphone on the floor, a bullet shell casing, Nicole Oulson's injured finger and Reeves' retired captain's badge from the Tampa Police Department.

It also includes a recording of another phone call home on Jan. 20, in which Reeves and his wife, Vivian, spoke about Jamira Dixon, a woman who claimed Reeves glared at her for using her phone during a showing of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on a Saturday in December at the same theater.

Reeves and his wife both said they never went to the movies on weekends. He asked if he had a tracker on his cellphone.

Vivian Reeves said she didn't know, but she said they had gone to Publix that day, and they had a receipt stamped 3:30 p.m.

"I would've had to drive very fast to get from the movies to Publix and check out at 3:30," she said.

They laughed about how they would never see The Hobbit, and Reeves called Jamira Dixon a "whack job throwing aggravation into the air." They talked about how Dixon would attract a lot of publicity with her statements, and Vivian Reeves added, "It'll never be in the paper when it's not true."

"Right," Reeves said. "That's always the way it's been, honey."

In a court hearing two weeks later, prosecutors did not call Dixon to testify.

Dixon could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Reeves' lawyer Richard Escobar said the state didn't put Dixon on the stand because they knew "she was totally fabricating that series of events."

Escobar said he wanted the new evidence released because it proves his client's innocence.

"The reason we did was because this is all favorable to Mr. Reeves and to his defense. … We wanted (the media) and the general public to have it so they could find out the truth," he said.

In the Jan. 16 call, Reeves talked to his wife, daughter Jennifer Shaw and son Matt about mundane things like what he eats for lunch (hot dogs) and his glasses (held together with tape). He worried that his identity might be stolen out of court documents, and his daughter expressed frustration with the jail system. Reeves reminded her:

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"They do record this, and they can listen to it," he said. "I'd rather not (have) anything negative on here."

He also told his family to sell his motorcycle or kayak if they needed money, but not to spend everything on him.

"You all need to know that you're all the love of my life. And if it need be, y'all plan on me not being there so you plan whatever you have to do to make your life easy, okay," he said. "My life will be easy if your all's is. Plan the future and don't spend all the money on me."

His daughter was reassuring: "We have all of that under control. We're not even going to talk about it."

That day, so soon after their lives took such an unexpected turn, Reeves sounded confident.

"Like I told everybody, I've spent 71 years doing the right thing and this guy just … anyway," he said before trailing off.

But after a marathon bail hearing seeking to have him freed from jail, Reeves was denied bail. His next hearing is set for July 9.

Times staff writer Lisa Buie contributed to this report.


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