A Florida jury exonerated a former police SWAT commander of murder Friday for the fatal shooting of an audience member after a dispute over cellphone use.
According to published reports, the six-person jury began deliberating on the case on Friday and issued its judgement late that same night.
Capt. Curtis Reeves
Capt. Curtis Reeves, a retired Tampa police officer who is now 79 years old, was charged with second-degree murder for the January 13, 2014 shooting death of Chad Oulson at a suburban movie theatre.
Richard Escobar, Oulson’s defence attorney, said in the end that when Oulson, then 43, turned, yelled, and reached toward Reeves, then 71, Reeves had a good reason to fear for his life. He claimed that Reeves’ choice to fire was informed by Reeves’ over thirty years of experience in law enforcement and his extensive training in the appropriate use of deadly force. For Reeves to defend himself, Escobar claimed, he didn’t have to wait to be hit.
He was Completely Fearless, as Rosenwasser put it.
Most fundamental facts are generally agreed upon. They were total strangers, thus Reeves and Oulson had no prior contact. Their wives had taken them to a matinee showing of “Lone Survivor,” a film about the war in Afghanistan. Both families sat in the very last row, with the Reeveses in the very back and the Oulsons on the row in front of them and to the right.
Oulson was messaging his daughter’s day care centre when the previews started, despite an announcement asking everyone to silence their phones. While Reeves insists he said it gently, Oulson’s wife and others claim he gave an order. Reeves went to the management to complain after Oulson refused him flat out, possibly using foul language. Reeves came back and saw that Oulson had put away his phone; he then told Oulson that he wouldn’t have alerted the manager if he’d known Oulson would comply.
The next few seconds are where the versions begin to split, and that’s when Oulson snatched up Reeves’ popcorn and flicked it back into his face. Reeves drew his.380 handgun, surged forward, and fired a single shot, killing Oulson and nearly amputating Nicole Oulson’s finger as she tried to bring her husband back to his seat.
According to Escobar, the evidence supports their claim that Oulson hurled his cellphone at Reeves, injuring him in the face, and then appeared ready to climb over the seats and attack, reaching toward him during the disputed seconds before he was shot.
Escobar Scoffed, “Impossible.”
Rosenwasser, however, argued that Reeves’ account was untrue. The prosecutor said that there was no evidence in the security footage or from Reeves himself that Oulson threw his cellphone or that it struck him in the face. But the footage clearly shows Oulson snatching the popcorn bag from Reeves’s hands and then throwing it at him when Reeves fires. Afterwards, Reeves reportedly said, “throw popcorn at me,” according to witnesses.