Defendant takes stand in Pasco movie theater shooting

DADE City — It is a tale he’s informed numerous occasions ahead of — in depositions, in court docket testimony and in handcuffs immediately after he shot and killed a gentleman inside a Wesley Chapel film theater.

But when Curtis Reeves instructed his tale to a Dade Town courtroom Thursday, the retired Tampa law enforcement captain knew it would most likely ascertain whether he spends the relaxation of his lifestyle in jail or surrounded by friends and relatives in his stunning Brooksville dwelling.

Reeves was the to start with witness to acquire the stand Thursday morning and the final to testify in his very long-awaited, a few-7 days murder demo.

But Reeves’ testimony was the fruits of additional than eight decades of authorized wrangling — a 6-thirty day period jail keep, many years of property arrest and look at-ins with parole officers, interrogations, depositions, attorneys’ costs, and a unsuccessful attractiveness after Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle denied his 2017 endeavor to acquire immunity underneath Florida’s “stand your ground” regulation.

On Jan. 13, 2014, days just after he returned from a father-son looking journey, Curtis Reeves took his wife, Vivian, to the flicks. Their son Matthew, a Tampa law enforcement officer, experienced lately examine the e-book at the rear of the film Lone Survivor, and agreed to fulfill them for a matinee demonstrating at the Cobb Grove 16 theater.

Right before the film even started to play within Theater 10, while, he had killed a person with a solitary gunshot through his upper body, the bullet approximately severing the marriage ring finger of the man’s wife in the approach.

Nicole Oulson, widow of Chad Oulson, awaits court testimony Thursday from the man on trial in his shooting death.
Nicole Oulson, widow of Chad Oulson, awaits court docket testimony Thursday from the man on demo in his shooting death. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Reeves was 71 then, but now looks a significantly more mature 79. He walks with a cane, suffers arthritis in his palms and knees and has a plastic hip thanks to a fall soon after his arrest, radiologist Michael Foley testified previously this week. The herniated discs in his again and time-ravaged tendons in his shoulders prompted him to slouch — camouflaging his 6-foot-2-inch-tall stature.

A six-member jury has listened to witness accounts from each and every angle and factor of the minuteslong come across that preceded Reeves pulling out a gun and taking pictures 43-12 months-aged Chad Oulson, a Land O’ Lakes father who was scrolling on his cellphone throughout the previews.

On Friday, it will be up to that jury to ascertain if Reeves is responsible of two expenses: aggravated battery and 2nd-degree murder. If convicted on the murder cost by yourself, the now 79-calendar year-outdated could encounter existence in jail. Even the most lenient sentence supplied by Florida regulation is a minimum 25 many years guiding bars.

Reeves didn’t seem like a male quickly rattled as he spoke of the experience he’s prolonged claimed frightened him so badly he observed no other choice but to shoot Oulson or chance his possess existence in an attack from the more youthful, much better gentleman.

“I actually imagined this was the conclusion of the line for me,” Reeves reported. “I thought at the incredibly the very least I would be critically wounded, if not killed.”

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Even when provoked and prodded by Assistant Point out Lawyer Scott Rosenwasser, Reeves responded in the similar method as he begun. Only when did tears at any time betray his steely, self-assured demeanor.

“I did not want to shoot any person,” he instructed his attorney, Rick Escobar, for the duration of questioning. “I arrived to the theater with my family members to appreciate a film, not to be attacked by some male which is out of regulate. I had never skilled something like that in my overall existence — not inside of a theater or anyplace else. It was a shock.”

The Reeveses entered the theater just as community provider bulletins inquiring friends to convert off their telephones performed on the monitor. The Oulsons ended up now seated when the Reeveses took their seats at the rear of him, and practically instantly Curtis Reeves claimed he was bothered by a light shining in his eyes.

He quickly traced the source of the gentle to Chad Oulson’s cellphone, he claimed, and he leaned about to quietly check with, “Can you transform your cellphone off, make sure you?”

Oulson didn’t appear up from the telephone, but spoke loudly when he informed Reeves to “f— off” and “Get the f— out of my facial area,” Reeves claimed.

He told the court docket he sat back again and viewed Oulson continue to scroll. When it was clear he wasn’t heading to set it away, Reeves reported he leaned forward a next time and explained, “You leave me no alternative other than to notify administration.”

At first, Reeves claimed, he thought Oulson was just getting “mouthy.”

He experienced crafted a job on dealing with persons like that, he reported. But irrespective of his decades in legislation enforcement, which was adopted by a profession as head of stability at Busch Gardens, Reeves explained to the court docket he in no way as soon as fired his support weapon. He credits his substantial instruction in de-escalation tactics.

But soon after he still left the theater, spoke to the supervisor, and returned to his seat, Reeves reported he observed Oulson staring at him and conversing loudly about initiatives to get administration associated. He said he was making an attempt to “diffuse the situation” when he leaned in excess of a third time and stated, “If I had acknowledged you had put your cell phone away I would not have included the supervisor.” But then Reeves saw movement out of his appropriate eye, he reported, and as he turned to seem at Oulson the person currently experienced jumped to his feet. Reeves stated he only noticed the flash of an object in Oulson’s hand ahead of he was struck above his remaining eye and his vision went fuzzy. He later on recognized that was mainly because a little something experienced knocked his glasses askew.

“I’d in no way been in that form of placement right before, sitting down down in a entirely defenseless place,” Reeves said. “I’m hunting up at this male and he seemed like a monster standing there. He was mad and he exhibited explosive conduct, the two verbally and physically, like I experienced in no way noticed. He was a risk.”

Reeves said he was specific Oulson was climbing above the back of his seat, so he leaned as significantly to his left as he could, trying to guide the male absent from his wife when also trying to back absent. He observed Nicole Oulson check out to tranquil her spouse down, with her hand on his upper body, but the male was “completely out of command,” Reeves stated.

In that minute, he explained he remembered going to the health-related examiner’s workplace as a youthful police officer in the murder unit, and observing firsthand that at times all it will take to close a everyday living is a well-placed, challenging-driven punch. When he produced the conclusion to grab his gun, it was his only choice, Reeves testified.

But at any time considering the fact that, Reeves claimed, he’s “been second-guessing it for the past 8 a long time.”

“Anyone who’s associated in something like that and does not second-guess it has obtained to be nuts,” Reeves mentioned. “I believe if you’re a human and you have respect for human lifestyle you would second-guess it constantly, each individual solitary day. I 2nd-guess this entire function.”

Decide Barthle informed the jury to be in court by 8:30 a.m. Friday to listen to closing arguments before their deliberations begin.

Staff author Anastasia Dawson, is reporting are living from the trial at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Middle in Dade Metropolis. Her tweets seem under.

If you are unable to see the tweets on your machine, click on below to browse them.

And catch up right here on the trial so far, in reverse order: Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday, Friday, Feb. 17, Feb. 16, Feb. 15 and Feb. 14. Study the full qualifications on the circumstance listed here.