DADE CITY, Fla. — A retired Tampa homicide captain accused of shooting a theatergoer in a confrontation over texting will wait two more months before learning of his trial date, a Pasco County judge decided Wednesday.
Curtis Reeves Jr., 71, is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 13 shooting of Chad Oulson, 43, of Land O'Lakes, Fla., inside a 16-screen movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Reeves has been held without bail while Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeals decides whether the decision of Judge Pat Siracusa of the state's 6th Judicial Circuit to keep the former police officer behind bars until his trial is appropriate.
Prosecution and defense lawyers told Siracusa that the process of deposing witnesses was taking longer than anticipated. The defense told the judge it had not yet deposed anyone in the case because prosecutors had given them a potential witness list with more than 100 names and allowed them to question the people only on Mondays and Fridays.
Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia said prosecutors are still awaiting analysis of a surveillance video from the theater where the shooting happened.
"You know, you all are fine to talk about these things when I'm not here," said Siracusa, who seemed frustrated even as he granted the delay. Parties in the case will meet again Sept. 10 to set a trial date, but the judge may be reassigned in late August.
Even if Siracusa is sent to a different courthouse, both sides indicated they would prefer he remain on the case.
The case has drawn widespread interest over texting in public, constitutional rights to bear arms and the private spat in a darkened movie theater that quickly escalated and caused the death of a young man who was the father of a toddler daughter.
Authorities said Reeves became upset when Oulson, sitting in front of Reeves, was texting during movie previews. They later learned that Oulson was texting his daughter's babysitter and that Reeves had texted his son, a Tampa police officer, moments before the fatal confrontation to tell him that he and his wife were inside.
Reeves' son, Matthew, heard but did not see the gunshot as he entered the darkened theater then used another customer's T-shirt to try to staunch the bleeding from Oulson's chest wound, he told investigators. The bullet also grazed the hand of Oulson's wife, Nicole.
If Curtis Reeves' lawyers decided to use the state's stand-your-ground law in his defense, Siracusa said he wants at least four weeks notice before the trial to rule on whether that law is an appropriate defense.
Curtis Reeves, a 27-year-veteran of the Tampa Police Department, has claimed the shooting was in self-defense, that Oulson hit him with an unknown object before he drew his gun and he feared an attack.
A second pretrial hearing was set for Oct. 14, and the most likely time for the trial, estimated at two weeks, is January or February.
Nicole, Chad and Lexie Oulson in a family photo used on the Chad Oulson Family Fund Facebook page. (Photo: Courtesy of Oulson family)