DADE CITY, Fla. — A bail hearing for a retired Tampa police officer who fatally shot a man inside a movie theater during an argument over texting took a dramatic turn Friday: Prosecutors played a grainy video of the shooting and a recording of the defendant’s police interview.
“If I had it to do over again, it would have never happened,” Curtis Reeves told detectives. “But you don’t get do-overs.”
Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 13 killing of Chad Oulson, 43. At the end of the hearing, which provided glimpses of the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutors’ case, the judge ordered Reeves held without bail until his trial.
Reeves did not react when the judge announced his decision. His attorneys said they will appeal.
Oulson’s widow, Nicole Oulson, looked relieved and sat with her eyes closed for a moment as the judge spoke. Later, she spoke to reporters.
“I’m just very happy and relieved by the judge’s ruling,” she said. Nicole Oulson was struck in the hand by the bullet that killed her husband.
According to the police interview, Reeves said Oulson hit him in the face, possibly with a cellphone, and he shot in self-defense. Yet other witnesses, including Reeves’ wife, told authorities they never saw Oulson strike Reeves.
Vivian Reeves did tell police that Oulson stood up and leaned over toward her husband just before the shooting, and the video appears to show some sort of contact between the two men.
Defense attorney Richard Escobar seized on those inconsistencies during his closing arguments to the judge and said the witnesses in the theater were “all over the place” and that the people who saw Oulson die in the theater that day “want to do everything they can” to help Oulson in the courtroom.
Escobar argued that Reeves should be released on bail because he is a decorated, retired police captain who has deep ties to the community.
Reeves pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Prosecutor Manny Garcia argued that Reeves should remain in jail without bail.
“Pointing the gun, firing the gun, and his statements constitute second-degree murder,” Garcia said. “If he left the firearm in the car, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Prosecutors also played a recording of a police interview with Nicole Oulson.
“He kept saying stuff to my husband,” Oulson said of Reeves. She said she didn’t immediately realize her husband had been shot.
“Immediately it didn’t even register with me, I just saw a spark and saw him go down,” Oulson said.
She said after the shooting, Reeves “just sat in his chair, he just kind of leaned back and just sat there, didn’t try to help.”
“As all the chaos was going on, he was just sitting there,” she said.
Authorities said Reeves became upset when Oulson was texting during the previews before the matinee. The Oulsons were sitting in front of Reeves and his wife.
Witnesses said they didn’t see Oulson hit Reeves, but some saw popcorn flying toward him.
“This happened so damn fast,” Reeves told Detective Allen Proctor in the recording. Reeves also said a woman with Oulson, later identified as Nicole Oulson, was “holding” her husband back. The same bullet that struck Chad Oulson struck Nicole in the ring finger.
Reeves was charged with aggravated battery charge in that injury.
The bond hearing began Wednesday. Judge Pat Siracusa heard from Reeves’ family, friends and former colleagues who testified he didn’t have any anger problems and would not be a flight risk.
Reeves told the detective that Oulson hit him in the face and that his glasses became crooked. Reeves said to the deputy that he might have been hit with a cellphone, but prosecutors disputed that suggestion.
“It scared the hell out of me,” said Reeves, adding that had he been younger, he would have “wrassled” Oulson to the ground. “The guy was very aggressive.”
Reeves’ wife told a detective she didn’t see Oulson strike her husband, but he told her he had been hit in the moments after the shooting.
Vivian Reeves also told detectives that Oulson used expletives, but didn’t make any threats. She cried during the interview and said she didn’t know why her husband fired the single shot.
“He was in law enforcement 20 years, and he never shot anybody,” she said. “He’s never threatened anybody with a gun.”
In an interview this week on ABC’s “The View,” Nicole Oulson said her husband was texting with their daughter’s baby sitter.
Reeves “had confronted my husband several times, which my husband ignored and ignored and ignored. And it just got to a point where my husband spoke up,” she said.