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Reeves' attorneys continue to question thoroughness of detectives' investigation

Curtis Reeves listens to court proceedings during State of Florida vs. Curtis Reeves at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Curtis Reeves shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater dispute, but is seeking immunity from prosecution under the "Stand Your Ground" law. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Curtis Reeves listens to court proceedings during State of Florida vs. Curtis Reeves at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Curtis Reeves shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater dispute, but is seeking immunity from prosecution under the "Stand Your Ground" law. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Feb. 28, 2017

DADE CITY — Did the detective know that a cellphone can weigh more than a baseball? More than a billiard cue ball?

Those were among the defense questions asked in the waning days of a "stand your ground" hearing for Curtis Reeves, accused of killing a man in a Wesley Chapel movie theater in 2014.

Today, Reeves himself is expected to testify, breaking his silence for the first time.

But on Monday, his attorneys busied themselves attacking the detective work that was done after Reeves shot a man inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters. That attack drew protests from prosecutors, who argued that what led to Reeves' arrest wasn't relevant to the judge.

Reeves, a 74-year-old retired Tampa police captain, faces a second-degree murder charge for shooting Chad Oulson, 43. He has invoked Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law, claiming he shot in self defense.

This week and last, attorneys have been questioning witnesses in front of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle, who will decide if "stand your ground" applies in this case. If she rules that it does, Reeves will be immune from further prosecution.

Richard Escobar, his lead attorney, questioned Pasco County sheriff's Detective Aaron Smith, who was in charge of the crime scene. Escobar sought to cast doubt on the competency of Smith, who had only once before been the crime scene detective on a homicide and had not yet taken a course on investigating homicides.

Escobar asked why Smith or other detectives didn't view security footage from inside the theater before they decided to arrest Reeves. Why Smith didn't record interviews with Reeves' wife and son — the latter, a Tampa police officer — and why Smith destroyed a diagram the son drew depicting where he was during the incident. Whether detectives weighed Chad Oulson's cellphone, which the defense asserts he threw at Reeves seconds before the shot.

"Do you know that this phone weighs more than a regulation baseball?" Escobar asked. "Did you know that this phone weighs more than a regulation billiards cue ball?"

Smith, maintaining his composure on the witness stand, explained his choices and his department's common practices.

Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin objected to several of Escobar's questions.

"We already know what (detectives) thought," Martin said. "This is not a trial where he's trying to establish reasonable doubt. I've said it over and over and over again."

Later, the court heard from Michael Knox, a crime scene reconstruction expert. He photographed mannequins inside the darkened theater while a movie trailer rolled on-screen to show the court how objects can be silhouetted by backlight.

Knox also discussed reaction time, and concluded Reeves likely decided to fire his weapon when Oulson's hand first appears in video grabbing Reeves' popcorn, not when Oulson shoved the popcorn back into Reeves' body. The shot occurred 1.5 seconds after Oulson first reached, Knox said, making it unlikely Reeves could have waited any longer to decide to shoot.

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Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15.

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