Prosecutors: This wasn’t the first blow up for Florida theater shooter Curtis Reeves
(CNN) — A few weeks before a texting dispute turned deadly inside a Florida theater, the suspect Curtis Reeves had another run-in with a moviegoer, prosecutors said.
During Reeves’ first court appearance on Tuesday, prosecutors said they have heard from another theater patron who said the 71-year-old former Tampa cop saw her texting and “glared at her the entire time throughout the movie” during a screening about three weeks ago.
When the woman got up to use the restroom, Reeves followed her and “made her very uncomfortable,” prosecutors said.
CNN affiliate WTSP later identified the woman as Jamira Dixon of Wesley Chapel, the Tampa suburb where Monday’s shooting took place.
“He became just upset about the whole situation and kept staring and kept giving us dirty looks,” Dixon told the station.
Dixon said she first heard about Monday’s shooting on the radio while she was driving.
“I had to pull over the car because … it could have been us,” she said. “It was just so close to home. It really makes you think how things could have went.”
An argument, then a shot
The shooting happened early Monday afternoon at the Grove 16 theater, just before an afternoon showing of “Lone Survivor,” a film about a Navy SEAL mission.
Reeves was with his wife and sat behind Chad Oulson, 43, and his wife, authorities said. Oulson was using his cell phone and Reeves told him to put it away, according to police and witnesses.
The two men began to argue and Reeves walked out of the auditorium. Police said Reeves was going to complain to a theater employee.
But Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told CNN on Tuesday night that the manager was busy with another customer and Reeves never addressed his complaint with a supervisor.
When Reeves returned, witnesses and authorities said that Oulson asked him if he had gone to tell on him for texting. Oulson reportedly said, in effect: I was just sending a message to my young daughter.
Police said Tuesday that Oulson was texting the daughter’s babysitter.
Voices were raised. Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, police said. Then, the former police officer took out a .380 semi-automatic handgun and shot Oulson, police said.
Standing his ground?
Reeves made his first court appearance on Tuesday on a charge of second-degree murder.
His attorney, Richard Escobar, tried to persuade Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper that his client was actually the victim in the incident and that Oulson was the “aggressor.”
Police said despite Reeves’ claim that he was in fear of his safety, this was not a case for Florida’s “stand your ground” defense.
“Working with the state attorney’s office it was determined that stand-your-ground does not fly here in this case,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Authorities said a preliminary investigation had determined that there was no physical contact during the incident. It was popcorn, thrown by Oulson that struck Reeves.
Tepper said there was no evidence to support the claim that the shooter was a victim. She denied him bond.
Sadly, theater violence is nothing new. Less than two years ago, an Aurora, Colorado, cineplex was the scene of a shooting massacre that left 12 people dead.
Theater chains had already moved to ban handguns. Cobb Theater, which owns the Grove 16 and more than 120 other theaters, says posters displaying its zero weapons policy are posted on its front doors. Other chains have also stepped up safety measures.
Still, is that enough?
“The question is going to become: how are they enforcing them? Is a sign sufficient to give notice that you shall not bring a handgun on our premises?” CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallo said.
There are theater chains that take it a step further, employing security guards at some locations to keep patrons safe.
“If somebody were to bring in a bag, for instance, they’re immediately going to spot something like that or if they’re acting unusual or nervous they would spot something like this, whereas a metal detector is only looking at one thing,” according to Howard Levinson, the president of Expert Security Consulting.
The National Association of Theatre Owners doesn’t comment publicly on theater security matters, but says “we encourage our patrons to remember that they are sharing a common wish to be entertained and to treat their fellow moviegoers with courtesy and respect”
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Martin Savidge, Devon Sayers, Kevin Conlon, Suzanne Presto, Tristan Smith and Jennifer Rizzo contributed to this report.
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