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The retired Florida police captain accused of fatally shooting a man who was texting during a movie — coincidentally a fellow ex-Navy sailor — had every right to defend himself, his lawyer argued in court Tuesday.
But Curtis Reeves Jr., who faces life in prison for the shooting at a Florida movie theater Monday, was denied bail.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says Reeves fired a single round from a .380 handgun at 43-year-old Chad Oulson, striking him in the chest during a showing of Mark Walhberg’s Navy SEALs movie, “Lone Survivor,” on Monday.
The round also hit Oulson’s wife, Nichole, in the hand as she tried to pull her husband away, authorities said.
Pasco County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Tepper ruled there was enough evidence to uphold the second-degree murder charge against Reeves, and ordered the 71-year-old remanded into custody.
Reeves’ lawyer, Richard Escobar, argued that with his long list of credentials on the Tampa police force and as security for the Busch Gardens amusement park he should be trusted to be let out of jail on bond.
“He’s been protecting the community from individuals that do commit crimes,” said Escobar, adding that he believes “his danger to the community is nonexistent.”
Escobar said the courtroom was filled with retired law enforcement willing to attest that his client has “no propensity whatsoever for violence.”
Reeves appeared via video from jail during the hearing, wearing a sleeveless, padded vest. He declined to speak to the judge at his attorney’s request.
The horrifying incident at the Cobb Grove 16 cinemas in Wesley Chapel on Monday was sparked by Oulson’s cellphone use, according to the complaint affidavit obtained by NBC News.
Reeves was sitting behind the Oulsons and confronted Chad Oulson about texting during the previews, witnesses told police. One witness said that Oulson explained to Reeves that he was messaging his 3-year-old daughter.
Reeves got up to complain to management. When he returned to the theater, they continued arguing and Oulson “threw a bag of popcorn at the defendant,” the complaint said.
While there had been no actual physical altercation, Reeves told deputies he was hit in the face with the “unknown object.”
Fearing that he was being attacked, Reeves said, he took the semi-automatic handgun from his pants pocket and fired one round.
A witness later recounted to reporters that Oulson fell, saying in disbelief: “I can’t believe I got shot.”
Oulson was taken to the hospital, where he died. His wife’s injury was non-life-threatening.
Reeves was also watching the movie with his wife, Vivian. At the time of the shooting, their son, Mathew Reeves, a Tampa police officer, had just arrived to meet them, authorities told the Tampa Bay Times.
Friends and acquaintances of Reeves say the allegations are “out of character” for him. The father of two and grandfather of one has been married for 46 years, is a Navy veteran and attends Bible study regularly, his attorney said.
He joined the Tampa Police Department in 1966 and worked his way up to captain before retiring in 1993. A police spokeswoman said he was instrumental in creating the force’s first tactical response team, also referred to as the SWAT team.
After retiring, Reeves worked at Busch Gardens until 2005 as director of security, a park spokesman said.
Joe D’Andrea, who lives in Reeves’ quiet Brooksville neighborhood, called him a “top-shelf kind of guy” who enjoys riding his motorcycle and taking walks with his wife.
“I used to tease him when I’d see them and say, ‘Does your wife know you’re out with this younger girl?’” D’Andrea said. “He would laugh.”
Oulson, of Land O’ Lakes, was remembered by friends as a “gentle spirit” devoted to his family.
U.S. Navy officials confirmed he served in the Navy from 1990 to 1997, reaching the rank of petty officer 2nd class. He had a clean record during his time, and was last stationed in Jacksonville, Fla.
On Facebook, Oulson appeared to be a doting dad, applying lipstick on his daughter’s face and helping her ride a bike.
Friends said the couple chose a matinee on Monday so they would still have time to pick up their daughter from daycare.
Neighbor Sav Mongelli said Oulson was the kind of guy who would look out for people in the community.
“Chad was a great friend and neighbor (and) watched out for my wife and kids when I was out (of) town on business,” Mongelli told NBC News via Facebook. “Just a gentle loving family man with a lot of friends. Life of the party.”
NBC News’ Tracy Connor, Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube contributed to this report.