It was supposed to be a rare afternoon off for a Florida couple who put their young daughter in day care and went to see the matinee of the recently released military flick, “Lone Survivor.”
Instead of violence staying safely on the movie screen, Chad Oulson, 43, and his wife, Nicole, 33, became trapped in their own horror in the audience that ended with the husband shot to death and a retired police captain facing murder charges, all from a dispute about texting, authorities said.
Curtis Reeves, 71 and a retired Tampa police captain, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday, according to the Pasco sheriff’s office. Reeves is facing a charge of second-degree murder, accused of shooting Oulson in a movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Fla., about half an hour outside Tampa.
The theater has a policy of not allowing weapons in the auditorium, Molly McFerran, a spokeswoman for the theater told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. There are signs on the walls with drawings of guns and knives with a heavy red slash. There are no metal detectors or searches, she said.
The situation began on Monday afternoon as about 25 people were waiting for the 1:20 p.m. start of the movie at the Grove 16 Theater. Oulson and his wife in one row and Reeves and his wife in the row behind.
Chad Oulson began noisily texting his daughter and Reeves asked him several times to stop, Charles Cummings, who was siting nearby, told reporters at a televised news conference Monday. Voices began to rise in anger.
“Somebody throws popcorn. I'm not sure who threw the popcorn. And then bang, he was shot,” said Cummings, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, who wanted to see the movie as a birthday treat. His son, Alex, came along.
“He said, 'I can't believe I got shot,'" Alex Cummings, said of Chad Oulson. “There was a lot of confusion.”
Charles Cummings said Reeves pulled out a gun and fired. Authorities said Nicole was injured in the hand and Chad in the chest.
“I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie,” Cummings said. “I can't believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn. Over a cellphone.”
Cummings said the injured Oulson fell onto him and his son.
“Blood started coming out of his mouth,” said Alex Cummings. “It was just a very bad scene.”
While Alex Cummings went to get police help, another patron, said to be a nurse, performed CPR. Both Oulsons were taken to a hospital where Chad was pronounced dead.
Reeves retired from the Tampa police as a captain in 1993 and had worked a private security guard since then.
After the shooting Reeves put his semiautomatic handgun on his thigh and was detained by a Sumter County sheriff's deputy, also there to see the film about four Navy SEALs on a mission in Afghanistan.
“He ran into the hot zone,” Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters, calling the deputy a hero.
“Fate brought these two people together,” Nocco said. “This was ridiculous.”