Analyses of the Tampa Officer’s Theater Shooting

Posted Posted by DetectiveEstes in Detective Estes' Corner, Uncategorized     Comments No comments

In January, Curtis Reeves a white male, 71 years old and a retired Tampa Florida police officer, shot Chad Oulson, white male, 43 years old and a finance manager for a motorcyle and powersports business. The article can be seen here from Foxnews on January 15, 2014. theater shooting .The incident occurred inside a movie theater in Pasco County, Florida. Pasco County is centered on the west bank of the state of Florida.

I thought, as a retired police officer, with 37 years of service, I could provide some light onto this incident and Mr. Oulson’s killing. This post is an analyzing of the incident from another retired police officer’s view. This post is not to say that Reeves was anything other than completely wrong in his actions. Of course one cannot shoot someone after an argument if you aren’t fearful for your life. What this article is arguing is that perhaps Mr. Oulson would be alive today if he had been more tolerant of Mr. Reeves request for him to stop texting in the theater.

In the Washington D.C. area that I reside in, local theaters show specific reminders on screen for movie watchers to turn their phone to vibrate, no calls, no texts etc., prior to a movie. One would believe that this is the usual theaters in other areas. Even if the theater didn’t do that, is texting ever so important that it can’t be foregone for a couple hours? Nothing has been noted in any news articles, on this subject, that Mr. Oulson had a personal emergency and was texting to solve the problem.

Essentially the way this incident went as follows:Mr. Reeves asked Mr. Oulson to stop texting in the theater during the movie. The men had some words back and forth. Mr. Reeves got up and informed the management. Upon Reeves return to his seat more words between the two of them because Mr. Oulson has not stopped texting and he doesn’t like it that Mr. Reeves told the management about him. Mr. Oulson, in a very childish move, throws his bag of popcorn at Mr. Reeves. More words between them. Mr. Reeves feels something hit him in the face. He feels he is being attacked and is fearful. Mr. Reeves draws his pistol and shoots Mr. Oulson who subsequently dies. Mr. Reeves also shoots Mrs. Oulson in the hand. Mr. Reeves is arrested onscene.

Let’s examine the actions of the participants in this debacle. Mr. Reeves hears texting behind him and doesn’t like it. In the Foxnews article, above, Mr. Reeves is purported to have asked a women in another movie he attended to stop texting as well. So we know texting bothers Mr. Reeves. Would it bother you if you were in the theater, and someone was texting behind you? Well, if the noises were turned down on the phone, no one would know that texting was in progress. So when Mr. Reeves said something to Mr. Oulson about stopping the texting, he had to have known from the noise, of the texting on the phone; perhaps the phone made a noise every time a text was sent either way. When Mr. Reeves asked Mr. Oulson to stop the texting, could Mr. Oulson have simply turned the noise off? Yes he could have. But he didn’t. We know that because Mr. Reeves and Mr. Oulson had some more words and then Mr. Reeves left and went to the management about the noise. Maybe Mr. Reeves told Mr. Oulson he was going to do that. The fact that Mr. Reeves went to the management indicates to me that Mr. Oulson did not apologize for the noise nor did he agree to turn it down or off so as not to further disturb Mr. Reeves.

Mr. Reeves returned from telling the management about the texting of Mr. Oulson. There is no indication in the article that the management took up Mr. Reeves problem and did something about it. Why would they? They aren’t the police. They have no enforcement power. The theater just can’t walk up to a paying customer and tell them they’re outta there, thereby taking another paying customer’s word as to a violation. So the theater most likely did nothing. Probably, since they already had words, Mr. Reeves began another conversation with Mr. Oulson to the effect that he had informed the management and they would be around to talk to Mr. Oulson directly.

Now we began to see what kind of a person Mr. Oulson is here. He is continually texting, even after several conversations with Mr. Reeves asking him to stop as it’s bothering him. Mr. Oulson is not the slightest bit respectful of Mr. Reeves age and the fact that at age 73, Mr. Reeves hearing has been damaged over the years. This hearing damage and errant little dings and other noises emanating from other locations causes Mr. Reeves to have real problems hearing the movie he has paid to see. Mr Oulson doesn’t care about any of this. In fact, when Mr. Reeves returns from his visit to management, he and Mr. Oulson have yet another conversation, and This time Mr. Oulson finalizes his disrespect to Mr. Reeves by throwing his bag of popcorn onto Mr. Reeves!

Up to then, this had been a verbal confrontation. Nothing further, just words. But when Mr. Oulson, in a fit of maximum testosterone output, decided to throw something onto Mr. Reeves, this racheted that little incident up to a criminal assault & battery. Yes, it’s a criminal incident to touch someone with your body in anger, or cause something else to touch that person. If you are into a confrontation with someone and deliberately touch that person with anything, it is a crime. Mr. Oulson committed the crime of assault and battery to Mr. Reeves when he threw the popcorn bag at him.

Now, consider this. So far, Mr. Reeves had held himself in. He began a conversation with a request, and due to Mr. Oulson’s refusal to stop doing something which was clearly bothersome to Mr. Reeves, Mr. Reeves went and informed the management. Mr. Reeves never made a threat, never put his hand on Mr. Oulson, in fact, all Mr. Reeves did up till now was talk to Mr. Oulson. It was Mr. Oulson who acting the fool, brought the conversation up to a confrontation and indeed, attacked Mr. Reeves!

So far, this talking and taking conversation to the next higher authority is exactly what Mr. Reeves as a police officer had been trained to do. The police are trained to talk first if possible. If that doesn’t work, then they go to a higher authority, perhaps a magistrate for a warrant. In this case, the theater management. Mr Reeves was the police for over 20 years. He has seen more, and done more real things, with real people, in excitement and calm than Mr. Oulson was likely to do if he lived to be a hundred years old. And in most of those 20 years, Mr. Reeves got things done through the by calmly talking to miscreants, of which, in this case, Mr. Oulson was one of. The Fox article states that Mr. Reeves had done this before, with asking someone else to stop texting. That was by talking and that worked out fine. The texting was stopped without further development. Mr. Reeves did nothing more than his training and career taught him to do all those years. He is not the person in this incident that did anything in violation of his training.

Following the throwing of the popcorn bag, according to the Foxnews article, Mr. Reeves sat back down in his seat. As a police officer, Mr. Reeves would know he had been criminally assaulted. He also knew that Mr. Oulson had upped this conversation to a confrontation and that, since he had, a possible further attack may be coming. Mr. Oulson has now shown his propensity to attack when there is no reason to attack. This makes me wonder how many other times he had done this? How many times how Mr. Oulson thrown his weight around in his business? How many times had he made fun of someone he considered less than him? How was his marriage….really? In this incident Mr. Oulson also showed zero amount of respect for Mr. Reeves age. This also makes me wonder what kind of a man this is, who would show no respect for an obviously elder person, so much so that he threw his whole bag of popcorn on him. This makes me believe that Mr. Oulson chooses his confrontations to his advantage. For example, would he have done the same thing with a large young man that asked him to stop texting? Probably not because if that had happened Mr. Oulson may have been struck by the large young man. This means Mr. Oulson did all of this deliberately so he could look good in his own eyes, or in his wife’s eyes. The name for this kind of person is – coward.

Now Mr. Reeves is sitting in his seat, covered in popcorn, knowing Mr. Oulson has upped this issue to a criminal attack. And the next thing that happens is that Mr. Reeves feels something strike his face. Now, he has already been attacked for no reason by Mr. Oulson, and now Mr. Oulson has thrown something at Mr. Reeves head. This is a sign to Mr. Reeves that Mr. Oulson has upped the assault to something far more deadly, and Mr. Reeves reacts exactly as his long learned training has taught him. Mr. Reeves draws his .380auto pistol and fires off two rounds in the protection of what he believes to be a deadly attack on his life. One shot is a center shot on Mr. Oulson, striking him in the chest. The other shot is off a little but removes any attack by the woman sitting beside Mr. Oulson, striking her in the hand.

So, who is really at fault here? Is it Mr. Reeves who reacts, at age 71 to an attack on his person that he cannot possibly stop by physical force alone? Or is it Mr. Oulson who decided one day to go from being a vague problem in a theater with the texting, just to bother some old man in front of him, to a cowardly attacker which costs him his life? Keep in mind that Mr. Oulson, at anytime could simply have stopped texting. Not only did he not stop texting, he increased the problem by having these continuing conversations with Mr. Reeves and continuing to text. Then, Mr. Oulson actually attacks Mr. Reeves person with the popcorn bag! And finally, in typical cowardly fashion, Mr. Oulson, throws something at the back of Mr. Reeves head which causes a long time police officer to believe he is being attacked in a deadly fashion and to react with deadly force.

Why would Mr. Reeves react that way? Because police officers are always taught to strike in places other than a person’s head as the person could be accidentally hurt badly. So officers are trained to strike the limbs or the torso with their defensive instruments, never the head. But the officer is also trained that if someone attacks the officer’s head, this is indeed a possible deadly attack and they should respond in kind to protect themselves from being killed.

This post is simply an analyses to those who read about this incident. Perhaps Mr. Reeves wasn’t justified in shooting Mr. Oulson, but ultimately, he reacted exactly as all his police training taught him. If this had remained a talking matter everybody would have gone home mad, but would have also gone home alive. But Mr. Oulson, as a disrespectful coward, had to turn it into an attack on Mr. Reeves and now Mr. Oulson is dead. I wonder if Mr. Oulson ever considered that youth does not necessarily make him right, or mightier. Probably not. Folks like Mr. Oulson only see themselves as winners, not dead.

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About Detective Estes

Detective EstesMr. Estes has lived in the DC Metropolitan area for most of his life. His father’s influence and expertise in firearms resulted in Mr. Estes beginning to rifle shoot at a young age and eventually shooting on the Washington-Lee High School rifle team in Arlington, VA.

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