The argument started when the former SWAT commander admonished the father-of-one for texting during the previews.
A former police captain has been acquitted of murdering a fellow cinema-goer who threw popcorn at him.
Jurors in Florida decided Curtis Reeves was not guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated battery, after he shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson dead in a movie theatre in an argument about texting during the previews.
The incident happened in a Wesley Chapel cinema in January of 2014, when Oulson was on a matinee date with his wife to see the Mark Wahlberg film “Lone Survivor.”
Before the movie had even started, as the trailers were playing, Oulson began texting his young daughter’s babysitter, and Reeves, sitting behind him, got upset.
After exchanging words, Reeves went to complain to management. when he returned, Oulson had put away his phone, but Reeves made a comment that had he done so sooner, he wouldn’t have had to report him to the manager.
This prompted another exchange of words, and that’s when, according to the complaint affidavit at the time, Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at him.
“The defendant removed a handgun and shot the suspect in the chest,” the affidavit reads.
Oulson’s wife Nicole, who had her hand on her husband’s chest as the men argued in an effort to get him to sit back down, was struck in the finger, almost severing it. The bullet went through her finger and pierced her husband’s lung and heart, killing him.
Reeves claimed to police at the time Oulson had “stuck him in the face with an unknown object”; he removed the 380 semi auto handgun from his pocket and shot him because “he was in fear of being attacked.”
The affidavit also states that “witnesses advised they did not observe any punches being thrown.”
During the nine-day trial, Reeves’ Defense attorney Richard Escobar had argued that the then 71-year-old — a “decorated law enforcement officer who had countless hours of training in the use of force, in the assessment of danger, and the risks that take place when we are faced with a dangerous encounter” — was genuinely in fear he was about to get beaten up.
He claimed Oulson had been aggressively leaning over a chair toward him and had thrown a cellphone at Reeves’ head; again no witnesses reported seeing a phone being thrown.
“I truly thought this was the end of the line for me,” Reeves testified during the trial, per the Tampa Bay Times. “I thought at the very least I would be seriously injured, if not killed.”
“I didn’t want to shoot anybody. I came to the theater with my family to enjoy a movie, not to be attacked by some guy that’s out of control.”
Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser told the court that despite Reeves claiming he didn’t know what had hit him, three witnesses testified hearing him say something about “throwing popcorn in my face” before he fired the fatal shot.
“‘Man killed over popcorn toss’ — that sounds like a sensationalized headline, something you’d read in big, bold type at a newsstand,” Rosenwasser said in his closing argument. “But in this case it’s absolutely, unfortunately true.”
But ultimately, the jury of four men and two women took three-and-a-half hours to decide it was justified self-defense.
Outside the court, Reeves smiled and laughed to reporter’s questions, as he described what was a “very trying time” for him and his family.
“This is great,” he beamed. “It’s been a long eight years. I couldn’t wait for it to be over with.”
“It was a sad day for everybody on both sides,” he added. “It never should have happened. I never wanted it to happen.”
A free man, Reeves was able to attend his daughter’s wedding on Saturday.