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Retired Florida cop says he shot fellow moviegoer out of fear

Curtis Reeves Jr. looks into the gallery during his bail hearing in Dade City, Florida, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Jones/Tampa Tribune/P
Curtis Reeves Jr. looks into the gallery during his bail hearing in Dade City, Florida, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Jones/Tampa Tribune/P

By Kenneth Knight

DADE CITY, Florida (Reuters) - A retired Florida police captain said he feared for his life when he shot and killed a man after an argument about texting in a movie theater, according to an interview played at a court hearing on Friday to determine whether he should be released on bail.

Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, has been jailed on second-degree murder and aggravated battery charges since the January 13 death of Chad Oulson, 43, in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa. Reeves' attorneys say he should be given bail because any action he took was to defend himself.

"The guy scared the hell out of me," Reeves said in a 29-minute audio recording of a police interview played publicly for the first time at the hearing on Friday.

"If I had to do it over again, it never would have happened," Reeves told detectives. "I would have moved."

Reeves said he became upset when Oulson would not shut off his cell phone as the previews began at a matinee of the combat drama "Lone Survivor."

The two men exchanged words. Reeves said Oulson told him he was texting his daughter's baby-sitter.

Reeves left to contact a manager, but returned to his seat alone moments later. More words were exchanged, and Reeves said Oulson grew more aggressive and leaned in toward him.

"I had nowhere to go," Reeves said on the recording. "I kept leaning back, then he was virtually on top of me."

Reeves said he fired the gun because he believed Oulson had punched him. He described feeling pain in his left eye and shoulder.

"I don't know why he was pursuing something that was not worth pursuing," Reeves said.

A prosecutor said on Wednesday that Reeves should remain in jail without bail, adding that Oulson did not strike or touch Reeves during the altercation. Eyewitnesses testified that Oulson threw his popcorn at Reeves.

Audio recordings of interviews with both men's wives also were played for a judge on Friday. Neither of the women said they saw Reeves' gun before the shooting.

Vivian Reeves said Oulson cursed at her husband when he asked him to "stop playing with his cell phone." Oulson's widow, Nicole, described Reeves as being rude and nasty.

Nicole Oulson said she stood and placed her hand on her husband's chest to help calm the situation just before the shooting occurred.

A single bullet struck both of the Oulsons. Nicole Oulson was shot in the left ring finger, and her husband suffered a chest wound.

"I saw a spark and heard a pop," said Nicole Oulson, whose left hand was bandaged as she sat in court on Friday.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Gunna Dickson)

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