A retired cop, irked that the couple in front of him were texting at a Mark Wahlberg war movie, opened fire in a Florida theater Monday, killing the man and wounding his wife, authorities said.
Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, was charged with second-degree homicide in the death of Chad Oulson, 43, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said late Monday afternoon. The theater was evacuated and remained closed after the shooting, which occurred about 1:20 p.m. ET.
Oulson was shot in the chest after a verbal and physical confrontation with Reeves, and his wife, Nichole Oulson, was shot in the hand. Chad Oulson was pronounced dead at a hospital, and his wife was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
"To have a retired police officer — I don't know what he was thinking at the time," Nocco told reporters. "I can tell you, anybody, over a cellphone, to take their life, it's ridiculous."
An off-duty sheriff's deputy from neighboring Sumter County was in the Grove 16 Theatre in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa, and detained Reeves and secured the weapon, described as a .380-calber handgun, until Pasco authorities arrived, Nocco said.
"He was a true hero in there. He reacted," said Nocco, who also praised the efforts of two nurses who were in the theater and tried to save Oulson's life.
Nocco said that when the first emergency calls came in, his mind immediately turned to recent shootings at schools and movie theaters, an apparent reference to the mass killings at a theater in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., just five months later.
"Hearing what we heard, we were prepared for a large incident, but I want to reiterate this was just an isolated incident," he said.
"This situation over a cellphone use — to escalate that high, I can tell you it's very scary," he said. "Or the fact it's a movie theater or, you know, a place such as a school, where people have a belief that they should be in a movie theater to relax or a school to learn and have it arise to this kind of level."
"To have a retired police officer — I don't know what he was thinking at the time. I can tell you, anybody, over a cellphone, to take their life, it's ridiculous." - Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco
Nocco said the tragedy unfolded after Reeves became outraged over something trivial: "somebody texting."
Reeves and his wife were sitting behind the Oulsons as the preview trailers were rolling just before the showing of "Lone Survivor," the Mark Wahlberg movie about a failed 2007 Navy Seal raid in Afghanistan, investigators said.
Reeves asked Chad Oulson several times to stop, to no avail, Nocco said. He then left the theater to complain to the theater's management before returning to his seat, the sheriff said.
Upon his return, "Chad Oulson then starts confronting him verbally, starts saying: 'Oh, did you go in there and start complaining on me? Did you tell the staff about me?'" Nocco said.
"This verbal altercation starts getting louder and louder. During this altercation, it goes from a verbal to a physical altercation," he said.
Then, "the suspect, Curtis Reeves, pulled out a gun," Nocco said.
Only one shot was fired, Nocco said. Nichole Oulson was wounded in the hand when she grabbed her husband as Reeves pulled the trigger, he said.
The theater's operator, Cobb Theatres, said in a statement that it was "truly heartbroken by this incident" and that it was cooperating with investigators.
Reeves retired as a captain from the Tampa Police Department in 1993, said Laura McElroy, a spokeswoman for the department, adding that Reeves helped set up the department's first SWAT team.
"We are not aware of any contact with the department since his departure more than 20 years ago," she said in a statement.