WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. – Chad Oulson was described by friends as a man who loved dirt bikes and his baby daughter. Curtis Reeves was a retired Tampa police officer with numerous commendations who liked riding his motorcycle with his wife.
The men’s lives collided in a movie theater altercation that left Oulson dead and Reeves in jail. Oulson was texting his daughter’s daycare, friends said, and Reeves got mad.
“He must have just snapped,” neighbor Joe D’Andrea said of Reeves, describing him as friendly, “stand-up” guy. “I’m trying to put all of this together.”
Reeves’ personnel files from the police department show he led other agencies in gun safety training and received numerous letters of commendation for his leadership.
During Reeves’ first court appearance Tuesday, Judge Lynn Tepper ordered the 71-year-old held without bond on a second-degree murder charge pending a bond hearing.
Pasco County Sheriff’s officials said Reeves initially asked Oulson to stop texting at the theater in Wesley Chapel, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Tampa.
Sheriff’s Detective Allen Proctor wrote that Reeves spoke to Oulson during the movie previews, then got up and informed management.
When Reeves returned to his seat “additional words were exchanged” and Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, the report said.
After officers read him his rights, Reeves told the detective that Oulson struck him in the face with an unknown object, and that’s when he removed a .380 caliber gun from his pants pocket. The report said Reeves fired the gun and struck Oulson once in the chest and that he “was in fear of being attacked.”
Tepper said she found the evidence significant enough to warrant the no bond order.
Reeves faces life in prison if convicted. He only spoke once during his court appearance, to say “yes, ma’am” to the judge when she asked him if he could afford to hire his own attorney. Reeves, who appeared in court via a video link from the jail, appeared to be wearing a bullet proof vest without a shirt underneath.
Reeves’ attorney, Richard Escobar, argued that his client should be released because of his deep ties to the community.
Escobar said the probable cause document was “quite weak” and that Reeves was defending himself.
“The alleged victim attacked him,” Escobar said, adding that Oulson threw something, possibly popcorn, at Reeves. “At that point in time he has every right to defend himself.”
The judge said that throwing “an unknown object does not equal taking out a gun” and shooting someone.
Escobar said Reeves has lived in the Tampa Bay area almost his entire life, and he worked at the Tampa Police department from 1973 to 1993, and was a homicide detective and captain during his career. Reeves has two grown children, one a Tampa Police officer.
Reeves’ application to join the Tampa Police Department shows that he served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1963 as a machinists’ mate on a submarine. After an honorable discharge, he worked as a truck driver, drove a bucket truck for a telephone company and as a warehouse worker.
As a police officer, Reeves regularly received outstanding evaluations and numerous letters of commendation for his leadership skills and the frequent trainings he led for other agencies on gun safety and other topics. He was lauded for leading the tactical response team for Vice President George H.W. Bush’s visit to Tampa in 1987.
He was often praised for his problem solving abilities to manage stressful situations.
“Captain Reeves not only has the ability to act decisively when necessary but has the foresight to initiate the proper course of action to avoid conflict,” a supervisor remarked in one job performance review.
However, early in his career, one supervisor noted “Reeves has a tendency to be impatient in regards to legal matters and practices now in force ... and may be abrupt with complainants in some areas of the city.”
In 1968, he was reprimanded for carelessly handling a city weapon.
Reeves’ home in Hernando County lies north of the movie theater. Neighbors said that Reeves and his wife moved to the rural subdivision about 10 years ago.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew that Reeves was a retired police officer, said D’Andrea, the neighbor.
“He was a stand-up guy in the neighborhood,” D’Andrea said. “I would not think he was the type of guy to do something like that.”
Reeves and his wife were friendly with the neighbors, often attending house parties, said D’Andrea. The couple also owned a motorcycle and enjoyed taking long rides.
Reeves was instrumental in establishing the Tampa Police Department’s first tactical response team, that agency’s spokeswoman said. He retired in 1993 and later worked security at the Busch Gardens theme park. He also served on the Crimestoppers board of Hernando County.
D’Andrea said Reeves’ experience in law enforcement should have taught him not to pull his weapon in a movie theater.
“It doesn’t just affect his life, it affects a lot of people,” he said.
Devon Detrapani and her husband Joseph were friends with the Oulsons and that the men worked together at Sky Powersports, a motorcycle and off road vehicle dealer.
Chad Oulson was the company’s finance manager and a hard worker, Detrapani said. He rode dirt bikes on the weekend and “liked” several motocross stars on Facebook, but his true love was his baby daughter, Lexi.
“They are awesome parents,” said Devon Detrapani. “They love that little girl so much.”
Detrapani said that Oulson was texting with his daughter’s daycare on the afternoon he was shot. She said that Oulson was a kind man with no anger issues.
“He is a very nice guy,” she said. “He would give the shirt off his back to help someone.”
Oulson had Monday off and his wife, Nicole, worked at USAA Insurance and took the day off so they could go to the movies together.
Detrapani said she and her husband, who attended kids’ birthday parties with the Oulsons, are in shock.
“This does not make sense. I don’t understand,” she said. “It should have never happened. Now poor Lexi has to grow up without a daddy and Nicole doesn’t have a husband.”
Associated Press writers Curt Anderson and Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.