Theater shooter Curtis Reeves points to Drejka stand your ground case in asking judge to ease bail restrictions

Curtis Reeves Jr., charged in a shooting death at a Pasco County theater, takes the stand to testify during a stand your ground hearing. [Times  |  (2017)]
Curtis Reeves Jr., charged in a shooting death at a Pasco County theater, takes the stand to testify during a stand your ground hearing. [Times | (2017)]
Published July 11, 2019

DADE CITY — Curtis Reeves has been confined to his Hernando County home for the last five years. He has ventured out only to go to church, the grocery store, doctor's appointments, his lawyer's office and the Dade City courthouse.

Now, half a decade after he was accused in the fatal shooting of a man in a Wesley Chapel movie theater, and two years after he unsuccessfully argued self-defense under Florida's stand your ground law, the retired Tampa police captain wants more freedom — and relief from the financial hardship the case has brought him.

Reeves, who turns 77 in August, returned Thursday to a Pasco County courtroom. He sat quietly at a defense table, donning a brown jacket and a tie, as one of his lawyers tried to persuade a judge to relax the conditions of his release from jail.

READ MORE: Trial postponed in Pasco theater shooting due to stand your ground uncertainty

"Certainly, it has been proven over the past five years, there is no need for those conditions," defense attorney Dino Michaels said in court.

He said Reeves poses no danger to the community and has complied with all the restrictions.

Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin argued that there was no reason to change the conditions.

"An argument is simply being made, 'Hey, we haven't violated anything. So let us off,'" Martin said.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Kemba Johnson Lewis said she will consider the motion and issue an order. She is the third judge to preside over the case.

Reeves was released from jail on $150,000 bail about six months after he was first accused in the slaying of Chad Oulson, 43.

READ MORE: Trial postponed in Pasco theater shooting due to stand your ground uncertainty

The two men argued after Reeves complained about Oulson's use of a cell phone during movie previews at the Cobb Grove 16 cinemas in Wesley Chapel. Popcorn flew. Reeves drew a handgun and shot Oulson in the chest.

Reeves later claimed Oulson threw an object at his face, and that he was afraid the younger man was about to start beating him.

Prosecutors countered that the slaying was not an act of fear, but of anger.

The case was poised for trial after an appeals court turned down a challenge to a judge's denial of Reeves' stand your ground claim.

But at about the same time, questions arose about whether Reeves should get a second chance to argue that he should be immune from prosecution. That's because shortly after the 2017 hearing, the state Legislature tweaked the stand your ground law to put the burden of proof in such cases on prosecutors, rather than the defense.

READ MORE: Judge rejects stand your ground in Curtis Reeves case

Opinions have differed about whether that change should be retroactive. If so, it would mean Reeves would get another immunity hearing, and prosecutors would have to prove that he was not in fear when he shot Oulson.

The issue is pending before the Florida Supreme Court. In the meantime, a trial for Reeves has been put on hold.

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The state and defense differed in their reading of the order that set Reeves' release conditions. Martin, the prosecutor, argued that the original order required the GPS monitor and restricted Reeves' movements because the judge felt Reeves posed a danger to the community.

The defense suggested otherwise. Michaels pointed to Reeves' long career with the Tampa Police Department and noted that in all the time he was a police officer, he never once fired his gun. They called the theater shooting an "isolated incident."

Michaels also compared Reeves with another local defendant who has invoked stand your ground — Michael Drejka.

Drejka is accused in the 2018 shooting of Markeis McGlockton outside a Clearwater convenience store during an argument over a parking space.

Unlike Drejka, Reeves has no history of brushes with the law, Michaels said. Unlike Reeves, Drejka has no restrictions on where he can go.

The attorney also noted that Reeves has spent more than $15,000 to cover the costs of the GPS ankle monitor he has been required to wear and an additional $5,000 for a secure storage unit where his lead defense lawyer, Richard Escobar, has kept Reeves' guns.

Reeves and his wife rely on money from a pension and have mined their savings and other assets to pay for his defense, the lawyers said. Funds they could use to pay for their defense currently go toward paying for storage and the ankle monitor.

Reeves' son, Matthew Reeves, who is a Tampa police officer, testified briefly Thursday that he would be willing to take custody of his father's guns.

If given permission to take the weapons, he said he would keep the weapons in a safe that his father would be unable to access.

Martin said he would prefer if someone unrelated to Reeves held onto the guns.

Contact Dan Sullivan at Follow @TimesDan.