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Witness: Wife chided Reeves after theater shooting and he told her to shut her mouth

Curtis Reeves Jr. takes the stand to testify during his "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Florida, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department captain, shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, over the use of his cellphone during a confrontation inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel, Florida in 2014.
Curtis Reeves Jr. takes the stand to testify during his "stand your ground" hearing at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City, Florida, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Reeves, a retired Tampa Police Department captain, shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, over the use of his cellphone during a confrontation inside the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel, Florida in 2014.
Published Mar. 2, 2017

DADE CITY — Sumter County sheriff's Sgt. Alan Hamilton was there the day Curtis Reeves shot a man to death after a dispute in a movie theater over an illuminated cellphone screen.

Hamilton saw a burst of popcorn and a muzzle blast, he said.

He didn't see everything, he admitted. But he heard things. And some of those things conflict with Reeves' own testimony about what was said in the aftermath of the shooting at the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in 2014.

Hamilton's account also does not support Reeves' testimony in his ongoing "stand your ground" hearing that Chad Oulson, 43, was climbing over the back of his seat when Reeves, 74, fired a gun.

Hamilton testified Wednesday as a prosecution witness. State lawyers are fighting Reeves' effort to avoid a trial on murder and aggravated battery charges by saying he was in fear for his life.

Hamilton said he overheard an exchange between Reeves and his wife, Vivian.

"He pointed his finger at her and told her to shut her mouth and to not say another f- - - - - - word," Hamilton testified.

Reeves' comment, according to Hamilton, had followed an admonition by the wife.

"That was no cause to shoot that man," Hamilton said he heard Vivian Reeves say.

In testimony during the defense portion of the two-week hearing, Reeves' wife had denied the statements attributed to her and her husband.

"I said, 'What happened, you can't shoot into a theater full of people,' or something like that," she recalled.

Reeves, asked about the conversation in testimony Tuesday, had recalled for the judge, "She wanted to ask me what happened, and I told her I got hit in the face."

During cross-examination Wednesday, Reeves' attorney Richard Escobar questioned Hamilton's version of events.

Why had Reeves' alleged comment telling his wife to shut up not been included in Hamilton's witness statement? Escobar asked. It had come up at a bond hearing, but why couldn't Hamilton recall it during a subsequent deposition?

Escobar suggested Hamilton was sitting farther from Reeves than Hamilton remembered, and with people in the way, his view could have been obstructed.

Hamilton, who was off duty when the shooting occurred, had been sitting with his wife in the back row of the theater, the same row as Reeves.

He recalled walking over to Reeves after the shooting and hearing him say, "I can't believe what I've just f- - - - - - done."

Reeves, seated, had the .380 Kel Tec pistol resting on his left knee. The sergeant, who was a corporal at the time, placed his hand on Reeves' chest, picked up the gun and unloaded it, he said. That's when he saw Oulson, who was on his back, bleeding, in the next row.

Hamilton's testimony Wednesday came on day eight of a hearing to determine if Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law protects Reeves, who maintains that he fired in self-defense on Jan. 13, 2014, believing Oulson was about to strike him.

If Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle agrees, Reeves could be cleared of charges.

He was sitting behind Oulson during the previews of a matinee showing of the movie Lone Survivor when the elder man asked the younger man to stop using his cellphone. When an argument broke out, it caught the attention of Hamilton's wife, who told her husband to keep an eye on it, he said in court.

Video showed Oulson had grabbed Reeves' popcorn and thrown it at him.

Hamilton demonstrated to attorneys and Barthle what he recalled seeing: Oulson was standing up in front of his seat looking at Reeves. His back was to the screen. Oulson was either kneeling on his seat or leaning against it, bent at the hip.

But, Hamilton said, he never saw Oulson climb over the back of his seat or throw a cellphone at Reeves. Investigators did find a cellphone on the floor.

Reeves testified Tuesday that Oulson was climbing over the back of his seat to get to Reeves.

"I realized I was in a life-or-death struggle," Reeves said. "He was no longer a loudmouth. He was now a very definite threat."

There was also testimony Wednesday from the forensic investigator who photographed Reeves. Susan Miller of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said there were no cuts on his face after the confrontation, despite suggestions that he was struck.

In his own testimony, Reeves described swelling above an eye. He said he felt his glasses get knocked astray after seeing what he perceived to be light from a cellphone near his face.

The state also called Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin, who conducted the autopsy on Oulson.

In addition to discussing possible bullet trajectories, he commented on the appearance of Reeves' eye area on a photo taken after the shooting. He said he did not see an injury.

Earlier Wednesday, a Pasco paramedic testified that he had helped Reeves flush popcorn from an eye.

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