Curtis Reeves sent a text message before movie theater shooting, court documents say

Nicole Oulson, right, and her attorney, Stephen Leal, speak with Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia, left, and others after a pretrial hearing Wednesday for Curtis Reeves Jr.
Nicole Oulson, right, and her attorney, Stephen Leal, speak with Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia, left, and others after a pretrial hearing Wednesday for Curtis Reeves Jr.
Published March 13, 2014

Curtis Reeves Jr., accused of fatally shooting a man in a movie theater during an argument over texting, himself sent a text message from his seat in the Wesley Chapel Cobb 16 Theatres.

The revelation comes from court documents released Wednesday in the case that has drawn national attention. Matthew Reeves, the defendant's son, said in an interview with deputies after the Jan. 13 shooting that he was running late to meet his parents for a 1:20 p.m. show of Lone Survivor. He texted his father that he was on the way.

His father wrote back that he and his wife, Vivian, were in their seats.

About 15 minutes later, Matthew Reeves walked into the theater as a single shot rang out. Matthew Reeves, a Tampa police officer, told investigators he caught Chad Oulson, who was struck in the chest, as he collapsed in the aisle.

Authorities say Curtis Reeves, 71, who also made his career as a Tampa officer, shot Oulson, 43, during a confrontation over Oulson texting his daughter's babysitter during the previews.

Matthew Reeves told Pasco sheriff's deputies that he didn't see the argument or the shot but that "noise and light" was coming from the top row as he walked into the darkness of auditorium 10.

According to court documents, Matthew Reeves told investigators he immediately went upstairs toward the commotion. He didn't know where his parents were sitting. He could see one person stand, then take a few steps back and then a few steps forward to the end of the row. As the stranger collapsed, Matthew Reeves caught him and helped him to the ground.

He noticed the man was bleeding from what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the chest. Someone handed Matthew Reeves a T-shirt, and he pressed it against the wound to stanch the blood.

It was then, as he treated Chad Oulson on the floor of the theater, that Matthew Reeves looked toward the back row and saw his parents.

"He said his father appeared to have a shocked look on his face," according to the court records.

As stunned moviegoers fled, and Chad Oulson's wife, Nicole, screamed to witnesses that Reeves shot her in the finger, Matthew Reeves then got another bystander to take over tending to Oulson. He said he went to the lobby and told staff what happened and asked someone to call 911, then went to the kitchen and washed his hands. A theater employee said he gave Matthew Reeves some bleach to clean the blood.

Another sheriff's deputy said as she wrapped the seats with crime scene tape, Matthew Reeves re-entered the theater and told her he was a Tampa police officer and the suspect's son. He asked if his father had been arrested.

"He was obviously upset, so I sent him out into the hallway and advised detectives about him," wrote Deputy Christina Demas.

One witness reported hearing one of the men — the witness didn't know which — say "Touch me again and I'll kill you," before the shot was fired. Others heard one say something that sounded like "get out of my face."

Some left the theater immediately. One man said he crawled up the steps. A few others, including two nurses, stayed and aided Chad and Nicole Oulson. Off-duty Sumter sheriff's Deputy Alan Hamilton took Curtis Reeves' gun and made him stay seated until deputies arrived.

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Pasco investigator Steven Greiner wrote in a statement that Curtis Reeves was seated and appeared calm when he came to arrest him inside the theater.

"I told the suspect to get up and put his hands behind his back," Greiner wrote. "He did not comply. I slung my AR-15 and grabbed his right arm. He got up from his seat but he still did not comply. . . . I moved him forward and bent his upper body over the chair in front of him. I then held his wrists behind him while (another deputy) applied handcuffs to his wrists."

Reeves, who is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, is being held without bail at the Pasco County jail until his trial, which is tentatively set for this fall. If convicted, he could face life in prison. At a pretrial hearing on Wednesday, his attorneys waived his right to speedy trial, saying they want to hire experts and do their own investigation.

The next pretrial hearing is set for July 9.

In an interview with a Pasco sheriff's detective after the shooting, Reeves said he was scared for his life after Oulson came over the seat and punched him in the face, setting up a possible self-defense claim.

Reeves' attorney Dino Michaels told reporters after the hearing that Reeves is holding up "the best he can" in jail.

"For a 71-year-old guy who's never been in trouble before, (and has) always been a pillar of his community, he's not in the best of health," Michaels said. "He has strong faith."