(TAMPA, Fla.) — Curtis Reeves, accused of fatally shooting a man in a dispute over texting in a movie theater in January 2014, spent the first two hours of his testimony on Tuesday chronicling his
nearly 27 years of experience in law enforcement as well as his later work in private security.
Reeves, 74, is accused of shooting and killing 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Jan. 13, 2014, during a confrontation over texting before a showing of “Lone Survivor,” police said. He has pleaded not
guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense.
Reeves testified that he served multiple roles with the Tampa Police Department in Florida. He started as a patrolman before being promoted to detective and later a sergeant. He created and
designed a SWAT team for the department, and by the early 1908s rose to the rank of captain.
He said he became a program coordinator for the department and subsequently started teaching two to three classes at the police academy because of his extensive training in firearms. In 1988, he
was diagnosed with cancer and said he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to return to work.
“It was kind of devastating,” Reeves said, getting emotional on the stand.
After surgery and radiation treatment, he was able to return to the department, where he took over the vice-narcotics division. Five years later, in 1993, he retired. He then took over as director
of security at Busch Gardens, a Tampa amusement park, when he said his focus was less law enforcement and more public relations and keeping the guests happy.
“You try to keep a safe environment,” he said. “We trained the officers how to effectively do that.”
His lawyer spent a portion of the time showing the various certificates acquired by Reeves, including one from the FBI Training School for effective communication as well as one from the National
Rifle Association for teaching handgun safety to the public.
If Circuit Court Judge Susan Barthle rules in favor of Reeves, he will receive immunity from prosecution and will leave court as a free man with no criminal murder charges.
Should Barthle decide Reeves did not meet the criteria to “stand his ground” during the encounter with Oulson, he will proceed to a criminal trial at a later date, where he can claim self-defense
in the shooting but will not be able to utilize the protection under the Stand Your Ground law.
Prosecutors say Reeves provoked the confrontation, The Associated Press reported, meaning he wouldn’t be protected by the Stand Your Ground law.
Prior to the shooting, Reeves had complained about Oulson’s use of his phone to movie theater employees, authorities said at the time. When Reeves returned to the theater, the argument escalated.
Witnesses told police that Oulson threw a container of popcorn at Reeves before he was shot, police said. His widow, Nicole Oulson, was also shot in the hand. She told ABC News in 2014 that her
husband was texting the babysitter, who was watching their young daughter.
“It was a couple of words. No threats. No harm. No nothing,” Nicole Oulson said. “In the blink of an eye, 30 seconds, it just shattered my world.”
Reeves said he “was in fear of being attacked” by Oulson so he pulled his .380 semi-automatic handgun from his pants pocket and shot the victim, police said.
Bond was initially denied for Reeves, but he was freed in July 2014 after spending six months in a Pasco County jail and posting $150,000 bail, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
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