A man was shot dead and his wife wounded after an argument over texting in a movie theater Monday afternoon in Wesley Chapel, Florida, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
The suspect, Curtis Reeves, is a retired Tampa police officer, Nocco said. He will be charged with second-degree homicide, according to Nocco.
Nocco identified the victims as Chad and Nicole Oulson, who he said were sitting in a row in front of another couple. An earlier release from the sheriff’s department said the shooting occurred before a showing of the movie “Lone Survivor.”
“There was an altercation because the victim was using his cell phone. He was texting,” Nocco said. “This led to a verbal altercation, the verbal altercation escalated.”
Reeves pulled out a .380-caliber handgun and as Nicole Oulson raised her hand, the shooter fired once, Nocco said.
A witness said the shooting happened during previews to the movie. Charles Cummings told reporters that Chad Oulson sat two seats from him and his son. Reeves was upset by Oulson’s cell phone use and the two argued, Reeves then got up and left the theater for a brief time, Cummings said.
“He came back very irritated,” Cummings said. Nocco told reporters that the shooter had gone to report the encounter to an employee.
The two men started arguing again and the cell phone user told the other man he was just texting his daughter, Cummings said. A few silent seconds elapsed and the argument started again.
Nocco said Oulson confronted the shooter about going to the theater employee.
Cummings said the argument got louder.
“Their voices started going up. There seemed to almost be a confrontation,” Cummings said. “Somebody throws popcorn; I’m not sure who threw it. And then bang, he was shot.”
The victim staggered over and fell on Cummings and his son. A nurse who was in the theater performed CPR on the victim until the paramedics arrived, said Cummings, who like his son, had spatters of blood on his clothes.
The shooter sat down and put the gun on his lap, and an off-duty deputy from Sumter County who was there to watch the film made sure the shooter didn’t leave.
Nocco said Reeves was at the theater with his wife, and there was no indication that the two couples involved knew each other.
The shooting happened at about 1:30 p.m. inside one of the theaters at the Grove 16 complex, sheriff’s spokeswoman Melanie Snow said.
“This was an isolated altercation between two guests that escalated unexpectedly. The safety, security and comfort of our guests and team members are always our top priorities, and we are truly heartbroken by this incident,” Cobb Theatres, which operates the Grove complex, said in a written statement.