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Judge denies bail to ex-cop in Florida movie theater shooting

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A former Tampa police captain who has been jail since he fatally shot a man after a dispute over texting in a movie theater was denied bond on Friday.

Following an acrimonious two-day hearing in Dade City, Fla., Judge Pat Siracusa, ruled that Curtis Reeves, 71, should continue to be held in jail where he has been since the Jan. 13 shooting. Reeves maintains he shot Chad Oulson, 43, in a movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Fla., in self-defense after an argument.

"I have been doing this long enough to know whatever I say, there are people in this courtroom who will be unhappy," Siracusa said before handing down his decision. After a review of the material, "I find that the state did in fact meet their standard to detain" Reeves, the judge said.

"It feels like this is a verdict, but it is not a verdict," the judge warned the audience, which included relatives of Reeves and Oulson's widow, Nicole, who was caught by televised images appearing to exhale sharply after the judge issued his decision. "This should not be interpreted as such,” Siracusa said. The decision does not "endorse your self-defense position nor am I saying it was wrong."

Siracusa said he expected his decision to be appealed to a higher court. If that body reverses his ruling, he said he would order Reeves released on a $150,000 bond, forced to wear an electronic monitor and effectively placed on house arrest, limited to just church visits and barred from attending any movie theater.

Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in Oulson's killing during an afternoon showing of the military film "Lone Survivor."

During two days of the bail hearing, broadcast by several television stations over the Web, witnesses described the confrontation. Oulson and his wife were sitting in front of Reeves, who complained that Oulson was texting to check on his child at home.

The prosecution also introduced what it said was a surveillance video shot in the theater. The grainy video shows Reeves in one corner and Oulson just barely on the screen. Witnesses said Oulson apparently threw popcorn at Reeves.

According to material introduced at the hearing, Reeves told investigators that Oulson hit him in the face, possibly with a cellphone, and he shot in self-defense. But other witnesses, including Reeves' wife, told authorities they never saw Oulson strike Reeves.

"If I had it to do over again, it would have never happened," Reeves told detectives. "But you don't get do-overs."

Prosecutors also said Reeves told investigators: "Good Heavens, I didn't mean to do that," a further indication that he knew the import of he had done.

Prosecutors  played a recording of a police interview with Nicole Oulson, who authorities said was shot in the hand by the same bullet that killed her husband.

"He kept saying stuff to my husband," Nicole Oulson said of Reeves. "Immediately it didn't even register with me, I just saw a spark and saw him go down."

After the shooting, she said, Reeves "just sat in his chair, he just kind of leaned back and just sat there, didn't try to help."

Reeves has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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