Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

February 6, 2014

Friends testify at Fla. theater shooting hearing

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (AP) — Family and friends of a retired Tampa police captain accused of fatally shooting a man at a movie theater told a judge Wednesday that the former officer is an honorable, even-tempered man who should be released on bail.

Curtis Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 43-year-old Chad Oulson. On Wednesday, he formally entered a plea of not guilty.

Police said Reeves became upset when Oulson was texting during the movie previews. The two men got into a verbal argument and witnesses told officers that Oulson threw popcorn at Reeves, authorities have said.

The eight-hour hearing was supposed to determine whether Judge Pat Siracusa would grant bail for Reeves, who has been in jail since the Jan. 13 shooting. But prosecutors and defense attorneys called so many witnesses — and asked so many questions of those people — that the hearing was continued until Friday.

Reeves' attorney Richard Escobar said his client was defending himself, but prosecutors said Oulson didn't hit or touch Reeves. If convicted, Reeves could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Oulson's wife, who police say was shot in the hand, was in the court Wednesday, but she didn't speak.

Nicole Oulson sobbed as she listened to the testimony of a nurse who was in the theater that day and tried to safe Chad Oulson's life.

Other witnesses for the prosecution included people in the theater that day: a former Marine, an off-duty sheriff's deputy, and a retired clandestine case officer for the Air Force.

All three witnesses described the events of that afternoon, in varying detail and with varying discrepancies.

All agreed on one thing: The shooting was unexpected, and quick.

Alan Hamilton, an off-duty Sumter County sheriff's deputy who was in the theater to watch the film "Lone Survivor," said that immediately after the shooting, he moved toward the commotion and took the weapon away from Reeves.

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