A Florida judge ruled Friday that retired police captain Curtis Reeves must stay in jail while he awaits trial on charges he murdered a Navy veteran during a dispute over texting in a movie theater.
Judge Pat Siracusa denied a bail application after watching grainy surveillance footage of the moment Reeves shot Chad Oulson, listening to audio tape of his police interview and weighing dueling descriptions of who was at fault.
"He was a ticking time bomb that day — and he exploded," prosecutor Manny Garcia said of Reeves.
Defense lawyer Richard Escobar countered, "No one can dispute Mr. Oulson was totally out of control."
Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder. He plans to argue he fired in self-defense because he feared for his safety but has not yet decided whether to invoke Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.
Two versions of grainy security video from the Cobb Grove 16 cinema were played in court, but the two sides clashed over what they showed.
The defense contended the footage shows Oulson, 43, tossing his cellphone at Reeves, then grabbing and throwing his popcorn at him, but the prosecution disputes that.
The tape also captures the moment when Reeves fired the single shot into Oulson's chest. although from a distance in poor lighting.
Witnesses, including Reeves' wife, say they never saw the victim strike the shooter — but the the ex-cop insisted to a detective afterward that Oulson "scared the crap out of me."
"If I had it to do over again, it would never have happened," Reeves told police on the tapes played in court.
"We would have moved," Reeves added. "But you don't get do-overs."
Reeves calmly told an investigator that Oulson either hit him with his fist or with his cellphone after cursing him out.
"He kept on hollering," Reeves told the detective. "He led me to believe he was going to kick my ass."
Reeves said Oulson was aggressively moving toward him when he pulled the gun out of his pocket and fired at what he believes was point-blank range.
"As soon as I pulled the trigger, I said, 'Oh, shoot,'" Reeves said.
He said his wife, Vivian, was upset with him after it happened.
"She said, 'We should have just moved,'" Reeves recalled. "[To her], there's no justification for what happened in there."
In her police interview, the wife said she did not see Oulson hit her husband but recalled that he said he had been struck shortly after the shooting.
Wearing street clothes, Reeves listened intently and quietly as the tapes were played. Also in the courtroom was Oulson's wife, Nicole, who was wounded by the single bullet.
"As soon as I pulled the trigger, I said, 'Oh, shoot."
In her interview with police, conducted at a hospital emergency room, she said they had shown up early for the daytime screening of the Navy SEAL movie and were watching a preview when Reeves began pestering them.
"He got rude with my husband," she said.
Reeves told Oulson he should turn off his phone, and he said he would "in a minute," Nicole Oulson said.
"The guy just kept telling him, 'Shut it off now,'" she said.
Reeves left to get a manager and by the time he returned Oulson had turned the phone off, she said. But Reeves, she said, would not let it go.
"Now you put it away?" Reeves said, according to the widow.
"My husband stood up and said, 'Hey, what is your problem?'"
Nicole Oulson said she put her left hand on her husband's chest as if to tell him to sit down.
"And that's when the shot rang out," she said. "I saw like a spark and saw him go down."
She said she was so stunned she didn't even realize she had been shot in the hand. Reeves, she said, just sat back down.
"He leaned back ... didn't try to help," she said. "He just sat there as all the chaos was going on."
She was asked whether a physical altercation precdeded the gunshot, and she said she didn't see one.
"My husband was standing up. He's a very tall guy. He was mad," she said. "[But] I didn’t see any pushing, shoving, hitting."
Brendan Fitterer / AP
Nicole Oulson, center, listens during a bail hearing to the taped interview of former Tampa Police captain Curtis Reeves, Jr., as he recounts shooting her husband.
First published February 7 2014, 8:14 AM