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Widow of Pasco man shot in theater launches children’s foundation combating gun violence

The Oulson Family Foundation, created in Chad Oulson’s memory, aims to provide both financial and emotional support to children effected by gun violence, she said.
Nicole Oulson, left, her daughter Alexis Oulson and attorney TJ Grimaldi display wrist bands in support of the Oulson Family Foundation on Thursday, May 26, 2022, at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi Guito & Matthews, P.A., in Tampa. Oulson created the foundation with a goal to provide financial support, including the payment of medical bills, mental health counseling and/or tuition support, to children who have been directly or indirectly effected by gun violence and crimes involving guns. Nicole’s husband, Chad Oulson, was shot by Curtis Reeves in January of 2014 while attending Lone Survivor at the Cobb Grove movie theater in Wesley Chapel.
Nicole Oulson, left, her daughter Alexis Oulson and attorney TJ Grimaldi display wrist bands in support of the Oulson Family Foundation on Thursday, May 26, 2022, at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi Guito & Matthews, P.A., in Tampa. Oulson created the foundation with a goal to provide financial support, including the payment of medical bills, mental health counseling and/or tuition support, to children who have been directly or indirectly effected by gun violence and crimes involving guns. Nicole’s husband, Chad Oulson, was shot by Curtis Reeves in January of 2014 while attending Lone Survivor at the Cobb Grove movie theater in Wesley Chapel. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 26|Updated May 26

TAMPA — In her mind, Nicole Oulson said, she always knew there was a possibility that the man who shot and killed her husband during an argument inside their local movie theater could walk free.

Still, she said, nothing could have prepared her for the late-night verdict on February 25 that acquitted retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves of criminal charges for killing Chad Oulson inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater in 2014.

“I just — in my gut, in my heart, I never thought it would come to that,” Nicole Oulson told the Tampa Bay Times in the days that followed. And on Thursday, exactly three months after one of Tampa Bay’s longest-running and most closely-watched criminal cases came to a close, Oulson said the trial’s unexpected outcome still feels “like the punch that knocked me out.”

But with support from attorney TJ Grimaldi and scores of strangers who continue to reach out from around the world, Nicole Oulson and her 10-year-old daughter Lexy — short for Alexis — told reporters that blinding punch didn’t take away their desire to fight for justice, if not for themselves then for others impacted by gun violence.

The mother and daughter called a news conference in Grimaldi’s downtown Tampa offices Thursday to announce the launch of the Oulson Family Foundation — an organization of their own invention with the narrow focus of helping children like Lexy who have either lost parents or guardians to gun violence or who may have been injured themselves in gun-related crimes.

“Going through the last eight years, the one thing that impacted me the most was Lexy feeling all alone and telling me, ‘Why do I have to be so different from my friends? Why did this have to happen to me?’” Nicole Oulson said. “I had no one to reach out to, no one to connect her with to share her experiences so she knew that she was not alone. That’s the heart of this mission — for other kids to know that they are not alone in this, and there’s a community and a family that’s here for them and that’s going to support them.”

The Oulson Family Foundation is still in its infancy, but Nicole Oulson and Grimaldi say they’ve already seen donations begin to trickle in. The goal is to eventually be able to raise enough money to cover the costs of medical bills, college tuition and mental health counseling.

“There are a lot of foundations or groups out there that focus on gun control or gun violence, but that’s not what we’re all about,” Grimaldi said. “We do not take a position on gun ownership, we’re just trying to help those children who have been needlessly and senselessly affected by it. And, surprisingly, we haven’t found any other groups with that specific mission.”

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Nicole Oulson was 35, and Lexy was just 22 months old, when Reeves fatally shot Chad Oulson inside Wesley Chapel’s Grove 16 Theater, then called the Cobb theater, during a matinee showing of “Lone Survivor” on Jan. 13, 2014.

But Nicole and Lexy Oulson said that’s not what they want people to remember about Chad Oulson. They want people to know that he was funny and kind and loved helping others. He served in Operation Desert Storm and loved racing dirtbikes. His racing number — No. 28 — now is printed on the blue armbands and T-shirts for the foundation his family hopes will serve as a living legacy of the adventurous father’s loving nature.

“I don’t want him to be remembered for how he died, but for his legacy,” Nicole Oulson said. “He believed that we can’t let the circumstances we’re given in life determine who we are or prohibit us from being everything we can be. We can always find a way to do good and make something good out of a bad situation.”

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