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November 23, 2014

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Retired cop in fatal Fla. theater shooting also was texting, court records reveal

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Tampa Bay Times, Brendan Fitterer / AP

Former Tampa Police Capt. Curtis Reeves Jr., center, sits beside his defense attorneys Richard Escobar, right, and Dino Michaels as they listen to his taped interview by detectives during his bond reduction hearing before Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

DADE CITY, Fla.— A former police officer accused of killing a man in a movie theater during a dispute over texting had used his own phone to send a message to his son moments before the incident, according to documents released Thursday by Florida prosecutors.

Curtis Reeves' son, Matthew Reeves, told detectives his father texted him at 1:04 p.m. Jan. 13, the documents show. Curtis Reeves told his son he was already seated inside the theater. Matthew Reeves, who is a Tampa police officer, made plans to meet his parents at the theater for the 1:20 p.m. showing of "Lone Survivor" but was late because he stopped to wash his truck, he told detectives.

Matthew Reeves said he had walked into the dark theater while the previews were playing and looked around for his parents. It was then, investigators said, that Reeves shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson.

"Matthew said he did not see the shot directly, but the noise and light drew his attention to the top row of seats," Pasco County Sheriff's detective Aaron Smith wrote.

Matthew Reeves tried to help Oulson by pressing a stranger's T-shirt against Oulson's bleeding chest wound.

Curtis Reeves, 71, was charged with second-degree murder. He also was charged with aggravated battery; authorities say the bullet that struck and killed Oulson also struck Oulson's wife, Nicole, in the finger as she tried to shield her husband.

Reeves has pleaded not guilty to both counts. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

Reeves is in the Pasco County Jail without bail. His attorneys say Reeves acted in self-defense. Reeves told police Oulson hit him in the face, possibly with a cellphone. Other witnesses, including Reeves' wife, say they never saw Oulson strike Reeves.

Reeves' attorneys did not immediately return a call for comment regarding the hundreds of pages of newly released discovery evidence documents. A judge ruled Wednesday the documents could be released publicly.

In early February, the evidence was sealed from the public for 30 days so Reeves' attorneys could review it and perhaps challenge all or parts of its release to the public. They had no challenges Wednesday, largely because much of the information was released during a two-day bond hearing.

A chunk of the documents are from Reeves' personnel file from his decades as a Tampa police officer. Reeves regularly received outstanding evaluations and numerous letters of commendation for leadership skills and for training he led on gun safety and other topics. He retired in 1993.

The file also contains an interview with Jamira Dixon, a 35-year-old woman who said that in December, Reeves became upset with her because she was texting in the same movie theater. During the incident, she said, Reeves complained to a manager, then continued to stare at her throughout the movie and made her feel uncomfortable.

The documents also offer witness interviews of the Jan. 13 shooting. They reveal the chaos and confusion in the theater when Oulson was shot.

Edward McFadden, 76, told Pasco County Sheriff's detective Matthew Myers he was seated in the theater and heard a loud noise behind him.

"He told me it sounded like a gunshot, but he wasn't sure if it was real or from the previews because they had just shown a preview for 'Robocop,' which had a lot of gunshots in it," McFadden told Myers.

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