Off-duty Tampa Bay police officer Curtis Reeves, 79, was accused of gunning down moviegoer 43-year-old Chad Oulson, as they sat in the theatre waiting for “Lone Survivor” to start playing.
It happened after Oulson threw Popcorn at Reeves during a minor dispute.
Reeves, who, when not out with his wife at the movies, worked in the homicide bureau, fugitive apprehension and was a SWAT team commander.
But Reeves started an argument with Oulson, on Jan. 13, 2014, during the previews to an aptly-titled-movie dubbed "Lone Survivor."
Reeves and his wife took seats in the back row, with the Oulsons sitting one row in front of them, slightly to the right, records show.
Oulson was texting his 22-month-old daughter’s day care, when Reeves demanded for Oulson to get off his phone.
The argument escalated when Officer Reeves pulled his .380 handgun, lunging forward and firing one shot, according to court documents.
Reeves later stated he believed he was acting in self-defense, after Oulson threw his cellphone at Reeves face, and tossed his popcorn at him, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder.
Reeves' defense attorneys argued that his nearly 30 years in law enforcement and police training suddenly kicked in when Oulson appeared ready to climb over the seat and attack him and that he had no choice.,
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“Had more knowledge, more experience, more study in that area than anyone in this courtroom.” Defense attorney Richard Escobar said, describing his client in court.
“It’s a dangerous world: Reeves didn’t have to wait until he was hit before defending himself,” Escobar continued.
“In his entire career that is the most he has ever been scared? Absolutely unreal! He didn’t fear anything," Prosecutor Scott Rosenwasser counter argued.
During closing arguments, the prosecutor told jurors that Reeves killed Oulson because having popcorn thrown at him ruined his “alpha male” self-image, according to Fox News.
Oulson and his wife, Nicole, were rushed to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The hospital treated his wife, after her finger was nearly severed from attempting to pull her husband back into his seat.
Deliberation took place on February 25. It only took the jury 3-and-a-half hours to deliberate, before deciding that Reeves was innocent.