Theater shooting victim’s widow: ‘My whole world just got shattered’
(CNN) — Nicole and Chad Oulson, the parents of 22-month-old Alexis, didn’t get many date nights, let alone an entire day together. So Nicole was delighted the two were headed to a Wesley Chapel, Florida, movie theater for some adult time.
“I was just looking forward to spending the day with the love of my life,” a tearful Nicole Oulson said Wednesday. “And just to think that, in the blink of an eye, my whole world just got shattered into a million pieces, and now I’m left trying to pick them up and put them all back together. And It’s so hard, and it’s so unbearable.”
Nicole Oulson, speaking for the first time since her husband was gunned down January 13, wore a pink cast over her arm, covering a gunshot wound that police say she suffered while trying to protect her husband from Curtis Reeves that harrowing afternoon.
Flanked by her attorneys, she spoke for only a minute, thanking those who have offered support and prayers in “this horrible time of grief and sadness.” Her main focus right now is taking care of Alexis, she said.
“Right now, I’m just still trying to recover from the shock,” she said.
Asked how Alexis was handling the loss of her father, attorney TJ Grimaldi said the toddler was fortunate to be so young.
“I think we’re all lucky that she’s as young as she really is,” he said. “She doesn’t understand everything right now, so all she knows, I think, is that Daddy’s not there. And in my opinion, being a father, that’s enough.”
Reeves, a 71-year-old retired Tampa police officer, got into an altercation with Chad Oulson because Oulson was texting Alexis’ babysitter during the previews for “Lone Survivor,” police said.
The 6-foot-1, 270-pound Reeves, who was also with his wife for the matinee at the Grove 16 Theatre in suburban Tampa, left the auditorium, apparently to complain to management, police said. Reeves returned “irritated,” a witness said. The argument continued and popcorn was thrown.
“The defendant advised that the victim turned and stood up, striking him in the face with an unknown object,” a police report said. “The defendant advised that he removed the .380-semi-auto handgun from his pants pocket, firing one round, striking the victim, and that he was in fear of being attacked.”
The witness said after Reeves shot Oulson, he sat down and put the gun in his lap.
Attorneys Grimaldi and Stephen Leal would not discuss many details of the case, but they did address Reeves’ claim of self-defense and his defense team’s efforts to persuade a judge to grant him bail.
“You can claim self-defense or you can claim your client had a mental health issue,” Leal said, explaining his opinion that Reeves’ attorneys had limited options. “It’s one or the other.”
Grimaldi added that Nicole Oulson “doesn’t understand what he was defending himself over.”
For Reeves to be eligible for bail on his second-degree murder charge, he would have to demonstrate that he isn’t a flight risk and that he poses no danger to the community.
Defense attorney Richard Escobar told a judge earlier this month, to no avail, that Reeves had close ties to the community, was a former Hernando County Crime Stoppers president, lived with his wife of more than four decades in a neighboring county, and had two children, one of whom is a Tampa patrol officer with more than a decade of service.
The attorney also said that Reeves was the victim in the altercation and that Chad Oulson was the “aggressor.”
Neighbors and family friends told CNN affiliates that Reeves was a friendly fellow, completely unlike the man described in news reports about the shooting.
Nicole Oulson’s attorneys did not discuss whether Reeves was a flight risk Wednesday, but they both expressed doubt that the community would be safe if he was released before trial. Leal said he doubts anyone could “reasonably” convince a judge that Reeves posed no risk to the public.
“Everyone with a cell phone is at risk. You never know when this guy’s going to go off again,” Grimaldi added.
The attorneys thanked Westshore Pizza and Sky Powersports, where Chad Oulson worked, for arranging fund-raisers and setting up a memorial fund that has garnered about $20,000 for the Oulsons. The attorneys said they will manage the fund and dole out the money as needed to Nicole Oulson, whose hand is “getting better.”
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