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Prosecutors: This wasn’t the first blow-up for Florida theater shooter Curtis Reeve

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TAMPA, FL – A few weeks before a texting dispute turned deadly inside a Florida theater, suspect Curtis Reeves had another run-in with a moviegoer, prosecutors said.

During Reeves’ first court appearance on Tuesday, prosecutors said they had heard from another theater patron who said the 71-year-old former Tampa cop saw her texting and “glared at her the entire time throughout the movie” during a screening about three weeks ago.

When the woman got up to use the restroom, Reeves followed her and “made her very uncomfortable,” prosecutors said.

CNN affiliate WTSP later identified the woman as Jamira Dixon of Wesley Chapel, the Tampa suburb where Monday’s shooting took place.

“He became just upset about the whole situation and kept staring and kept giving us dirty looks,” Dixon told the station.

Dixon said she first heard about Monday’s shooting on the radio while she was driving.

“I had to pull over the car because … it could have been us,” she said. “It was just so close to home. It really makes you think how things could have went.”

An argument, then a shot

The shooting happened early Monday afternoon at the Grove 16 theater, just before an afternoon showing of “Lone Survivor,” a film about a Navy SEAL mission.

Reeves was with his wife and sat behind Chad Oulson, 43, and his wife, authorities said. Oulson was using his cell phone during the previews before the film and Reeves told him to put it away, according to police and witnesses.

The two men began to argueand Reeves walked out of the auditorium. Police said Reeves was going to complain to a theater employee.

But Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told CNN Tuesday night that the manager was busy with another customer and Reeves never addressed his complaint with a supervisor.

When Reeves returned, witnesses and authorities said that Oulson asked him if he had gone to tell on him for texting.

Police said Tuesday that Oulson was texting his young daughter’s babysitter.

Voices were raised. Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, police said. Then, the former police officer took out a .380 semi-automatic handgun and shot Oulson, police said.

Standing his ground?

Reeves made his first court appearance Tuesday on a charge of second-degree murder.

His attorney, Richard Escobar, tried to persuade Circuit Court Judge Lynn Tepper that his client was actually the victim in the incident and that Oulson was the “aggressor.”

Police said despite Reeves’ claim that he was in fear for his safety, this was not a case for Florida’s “stand your ground” defense.

“Working with the state attorney’s office it was determined that stand-your-ground does not fly here in this case,” Nocco said.

Authorities said a preliminary investigation determined that there was no physical contact during the incident. It was popcorn, thrown by Oulson, that struck Reeves.

Tepper said there was no evidence to support the claim that the shooter was a victim. She denied him bond.

Who was the texting father?

Chad Oulson was a former U.S. Navy petty officer, serving from 1990 to 1997, according to spokeswoman Lt. Richlyn Neal.

Wednesday morning, a woman who said she was Oulson’s sister answered the door at his home in the Tampa suburb of Land O’ Lakes.

She declined to give her name but told a CNN reporter and producer that the family wasn’t going to make a public statement for a while, and that they were struggling with their grief and arranging a funeral for Oulson.

She did say, however, that Oulson has a daughter who is just under 2-years-old.

Though the garage door was shut, a day earlier the Tampa Tribune reported that a reporter saw a motocross motorcycle was on a stand next to a gold pickup truck and a child’s wagon.

“He loved his job, loved his family, loved motocross, loved the motorcycle world,” friend Joseph Detrapani told the newspaper. “He grew up riding motocross and loved to keep doing it, even at his age of 43, he’s still out there every weekend riding.”

“It is just going to be a huge hole in everybody’s lives for him and his family. He’d give you the shirt off his back if he needed to,” Joseph Trapani told CNN affiliate WFTS.

Theater security

Theater violence is nothing new. Less than two years ago, an Aurora, Colorado, cineplex was the scene of a shooting massacre that left 12 people dead.

Theater chains had already moved to ban handguns. Cobb Theater, which owns the Grove 16 and more than 120 other theaters, says posters displaying its zero weapons policy are posted on its front doors. Other chains have also stepped up safety measures.

Still, is that enough?

“The question is going to become: how are they enforcing them? Is a sign sufficient to give notice that you shall not bring a handgun on our premises?” CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos asked.

There are theater chains that take it a step further, employing security guards at some locations to keep patrons safe.

“If somebody were to bring in a bag, for instance, they’re immediately going to spot something like that or if they’re acting unusual or nervous they would spot something like this, whereas a metal detector is only looking at one thing,” according to Howard Levinson, the president of Expert Security Consulting.

The National Association of Theatre Owners doesn’t comment publicly on theater security matters, but says “we encourage our patrons to remember that they are sharing a common wish to be entertained and to treat their fellow moviegoers with courtesy and respect.”

By Ed Payne

CNN’s Steve Almasy, Ashley Fantz, Martin Savidge, Devon Sayers, Kevin Conlon, Suzanne Presto, Tristan Smith and Jennifer Rizzo contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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5 comments

  • Bob

    He claimed he was in fear of his safety. That popcorn can be fairly dangerous, and he had to kill him so he wouldn’t thrown his drink.

  • t

    What a racist you are byebye. You need medication cause you are clearly a violent person. You are such a racist you never comment on the killing on the norf side. No no no you blame illegal guns on the NRA. I bet you have a firearm yourself. Its always delusional people like you that scream the most that do the opposite of what they preach.
    This guy was a nut job. no reason to call him a redneck hick. That is racist.

  • Tom

    We don’t know what happened here…I would be willing to bet there were a lot of heated exchanges including threats…the idiot should have put away his cell phone if he knew it was disturbing other patrons. If he would have, there would not have been an incident.
    The shooter has every legal right to carry his weapon. Whether or not he was justified in shooting the idiot texting in a movie theatre is a question for a jury to decide. I’m witholding judgement.

  • George Tucker

    This is a tragedy, no matter whose side you pick. Two people, each thinking they have more rights than anybody else, encounter each other. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Rock head, meet hard head.
    What kind of idiot considers himself so above any need for common sense or ordinary courtesy that they carry on a conversation — loudly by voice or with intrusive light by text? How urgent was the text that he couldn’t walk a few dozen steps out into the lobby?
    How perverse do you have to be, when you’ll shoot someone over a trivial — but insane — act of gross rudeness, instead of simply moving to another seat. Or, waiting until theater personnel can address the problem?
    What everyone seems to miss in this story is the idiot who is seeking her 33 seconds of fame by claiming she encountered the shooter some time earlier. In this report she claims she “heard” on the radio, and was forced to pull over because it was so disturbing. Really? Did she know the guy’s name?
    No. According to another report, she learned — while driving — of the shooing on FACEBOOK. She is so obsessed with doing stupid things that she does them while driving, not only in the theater. At least, in the theater, she would be the only one who might die from her stupidity. On the road, there’s no telling how many innocent people might get wiped out. It was the guy’s PICTURE which prompted her to pull over. Not the need to do Facebook. Not the need to communicate with someone else, in order to get the picture. Not the need to look at the picture, in the first place. None of these common sense triggers convinced her to pull over.
    We live in a dangerous world. People who don’t have any clue about when and how to play with their electronic toys just raise the stakes.

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