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Florida man kills over use of cellphone in theater

Imagine this scenario: you have just had a stressful week, so you wish to escape your worries by emerging yourself in two hours of blissful cinematic magic.

After buying a large popcorn, medium drink and a box of Peanut M&M’s – bringing the total to $75 – you take your seat and wait for the trailers to begin. As the trailers meander along, out of the corner of your eye, you see that irritating flash of white light that tells you that the person in front of you is on their phone.

After asking the person to kindly put it away several times and being ignored, you have two options.

One: you can contact a theater attendant, ask them to reprimand the texting offender and step out of the situation. Two: you can shoot him with the handgun concealed on your hip.

If you chose option two, you might be Curtis Reeves.

On Jan. 13 in Wesley Chapel, Fla., Curtis Reeves, Chad Oulson and 25 other citizens attended a matinee showing of “Lone Survivor” at The Grove 16 Theater.

Reeves, a retired Tampa police officer, attended the movie with his wife. Oulson and his wife Nicole arrived at the theater expecting to see a movie, but that’s not what they got.

Oulson was reportedly texting his daughter when Reeves became agitated with the light from Oulson’s phone. After Oulson did not cease texting during the trailers, Reeves embodied the aforementioned first option and contacted the theater attendant.

Among the moviegoers was ex-Marine Charles Cummings, who had served in Vietnam and was seeing the movie with his adult son.

The Huffington Post reported what Cummings observed from his seat in the theater.

According to Cummings, the man in the back row — Reeves — got up and left the auditorium, presumably to get a manager. When he returned a few minutes later, he appeared to be very upset and did not have a manager with him. The argument between Reeves and Oulson resumed upon Reeves’ return to the theater.

Onlookers then say that Oulson threw popcorn at Reeves, and Reeves promptly brought the concealed gun from his hip and shot Oulson in the chest.

A bleeding Oulson fell backwards into the lap of Cummings and his son; Cummings and another patron then began preforming CPR on the unsuspecting victim. An attendee near to Reeves grabbed the gun from his hands, but Reeves did not flee.

Oulson and wife Nicole were taken to a nearby hospital, where Oulson was treated for his fatal chest wound and his wife was treated for her injury.

Though Nicole’s injury was fixed fairly easily — she had previously placed her hand on her husband’s chest in an effort to nullify the conflict; therefore having her hand injured — Oulson, unfortunately, passed away at the hospital.

During the aftermath of this tragic event, people began to wonder how a simple dispute could turn violent so quickly.

Shooting a man over a confrontation regarding a cellphone seems ridiculous and horrific, but what makes it worse is that Reeves acted out of fear.

Reeves told authorities that he shot Oulson because “he was in fear of being attacked.”

Fear is a typical human emotion and is known to drive people to do insane things. It makes one revel on the fact that a confrontation can turn deadly when fear is a driving force.

Reeves was correct to be fearful — this world we live in is crazy. Lunatics waltz into places and commit horrendous crimes all of the time just because.

On the other hand, Reeves is a retired cop, and police officers are placed in a line of work where fear is a constant. To say that the fear disappears from a man just because of a job is ridiculous, but one would think that Reeves would have a better hold on a dramatic situation than he showed. He was a police officer, so a person wielding a bag of popcorn should have been handled without gunfire. Oulson threw popcorn — not a grenade.

This situation is particularly striking because of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting. After the Aurora massacre that took place only a year and a half ago, gun violence in theaters has become more of a frightening subject.

Since Aurora, there have been many attempts to change gun laws.

According to the Los Angeles Times, such attempts to change include bills that attempt to limit magazine capacity, improve background checks and keep guns away from those who are mentally ill. These initiatives have not been approved.

Furthermore, while I am a believer of responsible citizens owning concealed handgun licenses, firearms should not be used in areas not designated — which clearly includes theaters.

According to the New York Post, Reeves is now facing charges of second-degree murder and has his first court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 28.

Whether Reeves acted out of fear or not, he should be charged for taking a life of a man who was just a moviegoer attempting to see “Lone Survivor.” From this incident, Oulson has left behind a wife and a daughter.

There will be ramifications for taking a life over a cellphone dispute.

Senior staff columnist Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]


  • What justifies an adult trowing popcorn into the face of a senior citizen? In Florida, throwing as much as a marshmallow at a senior citizen is itself a crime.

      • True enough. But arguing with people you don’t know is not a good survival technique. Could be insane, violent, unstable, you just never know.

      • It was awkwardly written because in order to advance his pet agenda the author had to sidestep an inconvenient truth. I am content to rely on 12 men and true to decide whether this is murder 2 or justifiable or something in between. The towering physically superior 43 year old man committed an unprovoked assault on a senior citizen (incidentally that is assault WITH special circumstances due to Reeves age). In doing so Chad Oulson escalated a verbal conflict into a physical one. Simply put had he not done so he would not be dead.

        Teachable moment for our youth and tough guys of all ages.
        1.) If you are easily provoked do not carry a weapon.
        2.) Throwing ANY substance or object into the face of a stranger during the heat of an argument is foolish at best and suicidal at worst. That is true regardless of how physically inferior the stranger appears
        3.) Don’t poke the bear.

        • Well stated. Regarding 3, You don’t deserve to die for poking a bear with a stick, but you probably will. Consequences are sometimes not proportional to your actions.

    • I’d rather have the seniors armed and a few retired cops still on their power trips shoot idiots that throw popcorn at seniors, than have so many elderly victims of violence by “youths” in knockout game attacks

  • He could have carried a gun anyway. Many people do that all the time. Why are there so many gunpoint robberies on UH, its a gun free zone?

  • What makes you believe that “Reeves was correct to be fearful”? You realize that justified fear makes for justified murder in Florida under “stand your ground”, right? Do you really want to suggest it is legal to shoot assholes because assholes may be dangerous?

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