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Trial in Pasco movie theater shooting won't happen until next year

Former Tampa Police Capt. Curtis Reeves Jr. arrives for a pretrial hearing in a Dade City courthouse on Wednesday. His attorney Richard Escobar is at right. [BRENDAN FITTERER   |   Times]
Former Tampa Police Capt. Curtis Reeves Jr. arrives for a pretrial hearing in a Dade City courthouse on Wednesday. His attorney Richard Escobar is at right. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]
Published Jul. 10, 2014

DADE CITY — After nearly six months in jail, Curtis Reeves Jr. walked into court Wednesday morning looking thinner and grayer.

The 71-year-old retired Tampa police captain has been held without bail since Jan. 13, when authorities say he shot and killed a fellow patron at a Wesley Chapel movie theater in an argument over phone texting.

Reeves moved slowly and sat with his head down as his attorneys spoke to him. He wore a white dress shirt, slacks and a necktie. He spoke only when Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa asked if he had any questions. "No, thank you," Reeves responded softly. It was a sharp contrast to his demeanor at the February bail hearing, when he smiled and waved at his supporters.

The hearing accomplished little, aside from making clear that Reeves won't face trial before the end of the year.

"We're disappointed," said TJ Grimaldi, the private attorney representing Nicole Oulson. She is the widow of 43-year-old Chad Oulson, who died of a gunshot wound to the chest. "We were hoping for a fall trial date."

Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting at the Cobb Grove 16 Theatres before a matinee of Lone Survivor. The bullet grazed Mrs. Oulson's hand.

Authorities said Reeves got irritated because Oulson was texting his 2-year-old daughter's babysitter and wouldn't put his phone away. Reeves left briefly to complain to management but returned alone, and a confrontation followed. It ended, authorities said, when Reeves pulled a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his pocket and fired.

Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia said prosecutors are still awaiting the findings of an expert who is analyzing surveillance video taken from the theater. The state has more than 100 people on its witness list.

Reeves' attorney, Rick Escobar, said he is waiting until the state's evidence is shared before deposing witnesses.

Escobar is also awaiting a report on the text history of Chad Oulson's phone.

"Those are important issues as they have been a focus on this case," he said.

Siracusa laid out what he wants attorneys to accomplish before the next hearing, set for Sept. 10. That includes deciding whether the jury should be sequestered and what rules they want media outlets to follow.

In what could turn out to be the most anticipated aspect of the case — whether Reeves will claim self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law — Siracusa told Escobar he'll need at least a month before the trial to consider any such claim.

From his first conversation with a detective the day of the shooting, Reeves has said he acted in self-defense. His attorneys point to an enhanced video that shows a lighted rectangular object being thrown at Reeves, which they say was Oulson's phone. Reeves told deputies something hit him so hard it knocked his glasses off his face.

A recent forensic test on Oulson's phone turned up none of Reeves' DNA.

Escobar would not say whether he will seek to have Reeves found immune from prosecution under "stand your ground" and the charges dropped.

"It would not be prudent" to discuss, he said after the hearing. But he did say that a plea bargain was unlikely given the fact that the law carries a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence. "This is going to be a trial," he said.

Despite Reeves' changed appearance, he has managed to weather jail conditions, Escobar said. Reeves' mother, whom witnesses said he helped care for, died June 22 at 93. He did not attend her funeral.

"He's strong," Escobar said. "He has incredible faith in the justice system."

Contact Lisa Buie at or (813) 909-4604. Follow @Lisa_Buie.