WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. – A retired police captain fatally shot a moviegoer who was texting in a theater Monday and wounded the man’s wife, authorities said.
The incident occurred as previews were showing before a screening of the movie "Lone Survivor" at Cobb Theatres' Grove 16 & CineBistro in Wesley Chapel, a suburb north of Tampa.
Curtis Reeve, 71, and his wife were sitting behind another couple, Chad and Nicole Oulson, when Reeves became upset with Chad Oulson, 43, for texting, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office told CBS affiliate WTSP.
"Somebody throws popcorn. I'm not sure who threw the popcorn," said witness Charles Cummings, who was seated nearby with his adult son, Alex.
"And then bang, he was shot."
Cummings told reporters the two couples started arguing after Reeves asked Oulson to stop texting. Reeves got up and left the auditorium, presumably to get a manager, police said. He returned a few minutes later without a manager. The men resumed arguing and Oulson asked Reeves if he had reported him to management for using a phone, police said.
Investigators said the men started raising their voices and popcorn was thrown. Authorities said Reeves took out a gun, and Oulson's wife put her hand over her husband. Police said Reeves fired his weapon, striking Nicole Oulson, 33, in the hand and her husband in the chest.
Cummings said Chad Oulson fell over onto him and his son.
"Blood started coming out of his mouth," said Alex Cummings. "It was just a very bad scene."
"The guy shot said 'I was just texting my daughter, my 3-year-old daughter,' " Alex Cummings told WTSP. "He said, 'I can't believe I got shot.' "
Chad Oulson died. His wife was treated at a nearby hospital and released.
"I can't believe people would bring a pistol, a gun, to a movie," Charles Cummings said. "I can't believe they would argue and fight and shoot one another over popcorn. Over a cellphone."
After the shooting, Reeves put the .380-caliber handgun in his lap, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy from Sumter County secured the weapon and detained Reeves until police arrived, Nocco said.,
"[The deputy] ran into the hot zone to make sure nobody else got hurt," Nocco told the Tampa Tribune.
Reeves was charged with second-degree murder.
Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said Reeves was a captain when he retired from the department in 1993. She added that he was instrumental in establishing the agency's first tactical response team.
After he retired, Reeves worked security for the Busch Gardens theme park and was on the board of a neighboring county's Crime Stoppers organization. Reeves' son also is a Tampa officer, police said.
There were about 25 people in the audience when the shooting occurred. Cobb Theatres said the cinema was closed after the incident.
"We are deeply saddened by the events that occurred earlier today, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," the theater chain said in a statement.
"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 said.