WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. - Authorities say a 71-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of shooting two people -- one fatally -- after an argument over cellphone use at a Florida theater.
The suspected shooter, retired Tampa police officer Curtis Reeves, was taken into custody after the shooting, which occurred at The Grove 16 movie theater in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa, according to the Pasco County sheriff.
"There was an altercation because the victim was using his cellphone. He was texting. He was making a lot of noise," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "This led to a verbal altercation. The verbal altercation escalated."
The sheriff's office says two couples watching "Lone Survivor" began to argue about texting when Reeves pulled out a handgun and shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson.
Oulson's wife put her hand in front of her husband just as the shot was fired and it struck striking her and hit Oulson in the chest. She was airlifted to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and Oulson was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"She's a wreck. She just lost her husband, father of her little girl over something that should have never happened whatsoever," said Joseph Detrapani.
A witness said the shooting occurred during the previews to the movie. Charles Cummings told reporters that the man who was shot sat two seats from his son.
Police said Reeves stepped out of the theater to report the texting to a theater manager, and when he returned to his seat, Oulson began arguing with him.
"He came back very irritated," Cummings said.
The two men started arguing again and Oulson told Reeves he was just texting his daughter. A few silent seconds elapsed and the argument started again. Cummings said Oulsen rose from his seat and talked to Reeves.
"Their voices started going up. There seems to almost be a confrontation," Cummings said. "Somebody throws popcorn; I'm not sure who threw it. And then bang, he was shot."
Oulson staggered over and fell on Cummings and his son. A nurse who was in the theater performed CPR on the victim until the paramedics arrived, said Cummings, who like his son had spatters of blood on his clothes.
"He's just a good all-around guy, father of a beautiful little girl," said Detrapani. "A tragic loss for her and her family right now for something that was kind of senseless."
"There was no indication that they knew each other," Nocco said of the two couples.
A good Samaritan, an off-duty Sumter County sheriff's deputy, detained Reeves until deputies arrived, officials said.
Reeves helped establish the Tampa Police Department's SWAT team before his retirement 20 years ago. He later became a security director at Busch Gardens, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"For a retired off-duty officer who has that training and all that should have never escalated it to that point when Chad doesn't carry weapons, doesn't hold weapons, doesn't have anything like that," said Detrapani.
Reeves was booked into the Pasco County Jail on second-degree murder charges.
"This was an isolated altercation between two guests that escalated unexpectedly. The safety, security and comfort of our guests and team members are always our top priorities, and we are truly heartbroken by this incident," Cobb Theatres, which operates the Grove complex, said in a written statement.
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