It started with an argument over texting, and it ended with one man dead and another in custody. How could an argument over something so trivial go so far wrong?
Chad Oulson, a 43-year-old husband and father, was killed after an argument with another moviegoer turned violent, reported the New York Times.
According to witnesses, Oulson was texting during the previews of a matinee showing of Lone Survivor at a Tampa theater. Another man, 71-year-old retired police officer Curtis Reeves, became angry when Oulson continued to text after Reeves asked him to stop. Oulson stated that he was texting his three-year-old daughter.
Reeves reportedly left the theater to get a manager but then returned without one. The argument escalated, and Oulson allegedly threw popcorn at Reeves. In response, Reeves shot him.
Reeves was detained by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy from another county. A nurse in the audience attempted to perform CPR but was unable to prevent Oulson’s death.
Reeves has been charged with second-degree murder.
According to USA Today, Reeve’s attorney is attempting to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute as part of his defense. (To learn more about Stand Your Ground, read our earlier blog post.
Reeves and his attorney claim that, after Reeves was struck in the face with an “unknown object” (which turned out to be popcorn), he became fearful that he would be attacked. In an interview, Reeves’s attorney said that Stand Your Ground applies because it allows someone to use deadly force if he or she fears “great bodily harm,” not just death.
Now, the judge presiding over the case will decide whether or not Stand Your Ground can be used.
USA Today notes that people have reacted to the defense with skepticism, calling it the “popcorn defense.” Many find it hard to believe that a reasonable person would fear great bodily harm after being struck with popcorn. Further weakening this defense in the eyes of the public are media reports of another couple claiming to have had a similar run-in with Reeves over texting during a movie.
The nature of the charges and the publicity surrounding the case will make it somewhat difficult for Reeves’s criminal defense attorney to prove his case.