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Curtis Reeves acquitted in 2014 movie theater shooting

Seated man looks towards people in the foreground
Douglas R. Clifford/AP
Pool Tampa Bay Times
Curtis Reeves, center, looks back toward his wife, Vivian Reeves, right, during closing arguments in his second-degree murder trial on Friday at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City. Reeves was acquitted of shooting and killing Chad Oulson and injuring Nicole Oulson at a Wesley Chapel movie theater in January 2014.

Defense attorneys argued that retired Tampa police Capt. Curtis Reeves feared for his life when he pulled his gun and shot Chad Oulson in the 2014 movie theater altercation.

After about three and a half hours of deliberations, a jury acquitted a retired Tampa police captain for fatally shooting a fellow moviegoer during an argument over cellphone use.

Defense attorneys contended that Curtis Reeves feared for his life when he pulled his gun and shot Chad Oulson in the 2014 movie theater altercation.

The prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments that Reeves killed the 43-year-old Oulson because he threw popcorn in his face during the confrontation.

They said that angered Reeves, 79, because it violated his self-image as an “alpha male.”

Deliberations in the three week-long trial began Friday around 5:30 p.m; the six member jury returned its verdict in Dade City shortly after 9 p.m.

The former SWAT commander testified on Thursday that he was afraid that he was about to be attacked by Oulson, who he said “looked like a monster.”

Reeves' shot also wounded Oulson's wife, Nicole who had put her hand in front of her husband.

Reeves, who faced a life sentence, was acquitted on second-degree murder and aggravated battery charges.

He was released from jail six months after the shooting and has been living under house arrest since.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Reeves' daughter is getting married Saturday.

His attorneys had argued that the case should be dismissed because of Florida's Stand Your Ground law, but Pinellas-Pasco judge Susan Barthle, who presided over the criminal trial, ruled against that claim in 2017.

The trial was delayed multiple times because of a change in judges and the coronavirus pandemic.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.