Dad’s texting to daughter sparks argument, fatal shooting in movie theater

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(Image Credit: Bay News 9 via

(CNN) – It started with a father sending text messages to his daughter during the previews of a movie.

It ended with the 43-year-old man shot dead amid the theater seats, and a 71-year-old retired police officer in custody.

The shooting Monday during a 1:20 p.m. showing of “Lone Survivor” at a Wesley Chapel, Florida, movie theater escalated from an objection to cell phone use, to a series of arguments, to the sudden and deadly shooting, according to police and witnesses.

As a male moviegoer texted, the man seated behind him objected, and asked the texter to put his phone away.

They argued several times, according to police and witnesses, and the man who was texting watched as the other man walked out of the theater. Curtis Reeves, a retired police officer, apparently went seeking a theater employee to complain about the texting, police said.

Two seats away Charles Cummings and his son watched the squabbling.

When Reeves returned, he was without a manager.

“He came back very irritated,” Cummings said.

The man who had been texting, Chad Oulson, got up and turned to Reeves to ask him if he had gone to tell on him for his texting. Oulson reportedly said, in effect: I was just sending a message to my young daughter.

Voices were raised. Popcorn was thrown. And then came something unimaginable — except maybe in a movie. A gun shot.

Oulson was fatally wounded. His wife was hit, too, through the hand as she raised her hand in front of her husband as the shooter drew a handgun.

Oulson staggered toward the Cummings and fell on them, Charles Cummings said.

The shooter sat down and put the gun in his lap.

It happened that an off-duty deputy sheriff from Sumter County was among the 25 people theater at the Grove 16 complex. He rushed to the scene to make sure no more shots were fired and the shooter would stay put.

It also happened that there were two nurses there and one came to Oulson’s side and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

Oulson later died. His wife, Nicole, suffered a non-life threatening wound to her hand.

“I can’t believe people would bring a pistol to a movie,” said Cummings, a Vietnam veteran who had celebrating his birthday by going to a movie with his son.

Reeves was sitting with his wife, Pasco County Sherriff Chris Nocco said.

CNN affiliate Bay News 9 reported that Reeves was arrested on a charge of second-degree homicide. It could not be determined Monday night whether he had retained an attorney.

Reeves retired in 1993 as a captain with the police department in nearby Tampa. He was also director of security at Busch Gardens until 2005, the station reported.

Bay News 9 spoke to a neighbor of Oulson’s who said the dead man was a very nice guy who he couldn’t envision being involved in an incident like this.

“Always smiling. I’ve never seen him angry,” Bill Costas said. If I needed help with something he was always there.

“Totally different guy. Like I said, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Not from what I know of him.”

The shooting happened at about 1:30 p.m. inside one of the theaters at the Grove 16 complex, sheriff’s spokeswoman Melanie Snow said.

“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.

On the theaters’ website is a list of prohibited items and actions. Among them: No cell phone use, including texting, in the theater auditorium. And no weapons allowed.

TM & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • Dan

    A lesson to be learned about cell phone etiquette. He should’ve just turned it off immediately without discussion.

    • twin

      exactly, he was just as wrong by bringing the gun in. It was during PREVIEWS. SENSELESS!!!!!!!!!!!! Another life gone over an ignorant man with a gun.

      • Ricky

        Keep in mind that this is Florida, I live here and people take guns everywhere legally, sort of like the wild wild west with a more shallow mentality.

    • You-know-who

      Come on the man was texting HIS DAUGHTER. Druring the previews. What was gonna be be missed? A mystery movie coming in 6 months. But because of the retired police officer a duaghter is now left with out a father. Show some sympathy.

    • TGDF

      With all respect…..I understand why people shouldn’t be talking on their cell phones in a theatre….but assuming the sound is off and the phone is not going beep, bop, boop with every character typed…..assuming the user isn’t viewing pictures that are making the screen flash like a camera flashbulb…..assuming the user is typing white text on a black background, again so the screen isn’t flashing…..what is wrong with texting in a theatre…..even during the movie? I don’t use texting and I don’t really care about it, but I don’t see what’s wrong with it in a theatre…..again, assuming the absence of noise or flashing lights. Could someone clue me in here?

  • Bill Zuber

    Niether of them follwed the rules. If the theater manager had enforced the rules in the first place the incuident would not have happened! The shooter did over react.

  • Dewayne

    Classic example of how inconsideraton can just totally get out of control….the action that can push someone over the edge or boiling point or to snap… never know when your interaction with someone will be the one encounter that you wish you never had…..driving cutting someone off intentionally or not, taking a parking space, cutting line, not texting, some people take rules serious and others don’t…….I know they wish they could have a do-over if they could see what the outcome would be…..and there are a lot of ifs……the management enforcing, the patrons showing up at a different time, or even if by chance sitting on oppisite ends of the same row might have caused this not to happen…..we NEVER know what the results of our actions may cause or come to be………you just never know…….so sad……..

    • Wake Up

      Dewayne, none of that would have mattered if the killer was not carrying a gun. Since when did being rude become a death sentence?

    • Ladybug

      I agree with DeWayne. So sad. Makes me rethink some of the inconsiderate things I’ve done. I’m not too proud to change my behavior to save my own life or those around me. Better to learn from other’s mistakes than to repeat them!

  • Wake Up

    Will the NRA magazine run this story as one of their celebrations of carry permits and the good they do for society and freedom?

  • Joe Robinson

    This belligerent moron had been a cop for decades. No telling how many he killed senselessly before and his fellow cops covered it up.

  • Stephanie

    Rules were meant to be broken. I dont care who you are, everyone at some point has texted or checked their phone during a movie. He wasnt bothering anyone by texting. That retired cop thought he was bad*** because of his history and thought he overpowered the victim. Typical cop. They think they rule this country. That poor man left behind a wife, a daughter, and I would imagine a whole lot of people who loved and cared for him. I dont care if he was jumping up and down in his seat. HE DID NOT DESERVE TO BE SHOT!!! That retired cop will more than likely get probation or even walk free because of the connections he has. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to the victims family

      • Stephanie

        I at no point said or objected that people were saying that. Please reread my comment. Thank you. However I will say that most of these comments state that the victim should have never had his phone out. Not one comment states sympathy toward the victim. With the exception of my own.

  • MK

    They were both in the wrong here…It doesn’t matter who did what or why. I carry a gun with me everywhere I go because of crazy people like this guy. Had the guy with the cell phone turned the phone off or walked to the lobby to text, having courtesy for everyone around him or had the manager enforced the rules or had the guy not brought his gun to a movie theater…there are so many “what ifs” here we could beat ourselves black and blue for days. This retired officer apparently had some issues to get so mad over this incident but none of you can say that you havent ever been in a theater and someone texting after the lights go down and you get upset over it. I wouldn’t have shot the guy but I can promise you I might have at least hit him…Too drastic for me to shoot the guy but maybe this will teach people to be careful what you do or say to people because you never know what state of mind someone is in at that moment.

    • Wake Up

      MK, the way the article describes the situation — you would have been dead before you could even draw your weapon! Things do not work out in real life like they do in the TV shows and movies. In real life, the good guy does not always win!

      • Token

        Shhhh….don’t ruin his Chuck Norris fantasies with facts and logic. He feels like a real cowboy when he totes his big gun around, I’m sure he’ll shoot a bad guy dead one day and there’ll even be a big parade in his honor.

    • Ashley

      “none of you can say that you havent ever been in a theater and someone texting after the lights go down and you get upset over it.” As long as their phone isn’t making noise I couldn’t care less.

  • Token

    Where is ‘Obama Lies’ to demand the ethnicities of everyone involved?That’s always the most important detail of any news story, you know.

    • Ih8stupidpeople

      @ Token I was waiting on the stupid person to raise their ugly head and you showed up…Ignorance is not a good look on you!!!

  • Really?

    How is texting in a movie theater that big of a deal? If you are focused on the BIG screen does that small light really bother you? I think this is an example of one guy over reacting in the worst way. We need to learn to live and let others live.

  • MK

    For your information Token… I am a woman and I have no “Chuck Norris Fantasies”. I carry a gun because there are stupid people like your self in this world and being a female, having a gun makes me fell safer. I in NO way condone this guy for what he did, I just think you have to be careful what you say or do around people because you never know what their state of mind is. And just so you know, I would rather have my gun when that “bad” guy is after me than running like a sissy because I’m scared…

    • Token

      So you carry a gun because there are people in the world whose comments on online new stories you don’t enjoy? You totally sound like someone who needs to be walking around with a deadly weapon, no red flags here at all.

    • Dewayne

      Im just wondering in this situation when would you pull your gun in a dark theater… have yours he has his……he pulled first now you pull yours in response….does he shoot because he sees yours…..or do you get off a shot….is it an accurate shot or stray that wounds or kills someone else…..Im so glad there are “I would rather have my gun when that “bad” guy is after me than running like a sissy because I’m scared” gun toting people out there to prevent all this from happening……and the shooter had a gun because it was his right to ……

  • christy

    there’s nothing wrong with carrying a gun. If someone wants you dead, they will do it with or without a gun. The man texting deserved to be asked to stop…not to be killed. My husband carries everywhere and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in a theatre and some obnoxious person was talking out loud, kicking my seat or his etc. I have never thought “I hope he shoots them if they do it again” and he’s never entertained the thought himself. This man obviously has some other issues going on. This isn’t a normal reaction.

    • JIM

      Don.t forget the the theater massaker because no one ejse had a gun to protect theself or their loved ones .One bad incendent and your ready for gun control .THERE WAS AN OFFICER IN THERE THAT IMMEDIATELY TOOK control of the situition

  • Craig

    I love how some of you are making this about a gun thing. Once again we have somebody that is apparently not mentally stable, so instead of of focusing on the real problem, you make it about “carrying a gun”. How about we fix the social issues in this country? Bad guys and people with mental problems are not going to care about any law that prevents them from doing something bad. Yet, we focus on the tool used instead of the person using the tool. If I kill somebody with a hammer, is it a problem with the ease of owning a hammer or a problem with my mental capacity and/or character?

    Thousands of people carry legally without incident every day, yet when something like this happens, you want to label all people that legally carry as “Chuck Norris” types? How very “open-minded” and “progressive” of some of you.

    • Wake Up

      Craig, in this “incident” something bad did happen. A day earlier you would be celebrating the retired police officer as an example of a “good guy with a gun” to support your point — now he supports the point for the other side of the debate!

    • Token

      Since I’m the only one that brought up Chuck Norris I feel like you are in some way referencing my comments and I want to clarify that I’m not against concealed carry nor do I support stricter gun laws. I actually agree with the first bit of what you said concerning focusing on the social aspect of these incidents rather than the weapons involved. I never labeled all gun owners as being Chuck Norris imitators, only MK, who reminds me of one of those gun nuts who sits around waiting and anticipating for a chance to “stand their ground”. Some of these people think it would actually be fun to live in a Wild Wild West world where armed guards from private security companies patrol pre-schools.

      If you routinely carry a deadly weapon on your person everywhere you go that’s your business but you shouldn’t be daydreaming about the day you get to blow the “bad people” away with it. Also, just because someone leans to the left doesn’t mean they have to be tolerant of another persons dangerous and childish views about life and death.

  • Dewayne

    Never said it a was gun issue…….everyone has the right to carry within the bounds of the written gun laws…….my point was how was another gun going to stop this man from shooting the victim…..unless you could see the future or read his mind to know what he was going to do… was your gun going to stop his gun from doing the deadly deed……this would of should of could of speculation is for the birds…..not a single person in here with a gun could have stopped this…..including me… Gyp Rosetti thinks….I got guns, you got guns, everybody got guns……and all the guns here couldnt stop what he did…….unless you have some kind of dream scheme where you and your gun being there could have prevented it………..

  • Dewayne

    And Craig read the comment again…..he said “his Chuck Norris fantasies” the pronoun his to the her he was responding to means only one person being labeled…….not everyone who exercises their right to carry……..

  • Branko Pezdi

    As usual – and demonstrated here for the umpteenth time – liberals are aghast at human nature and wish to take complete control of it via legislation according to THEIR notions of utopia and paradise. Hey libs, you can have freedom and liberty (with all its dirty laundry, considering human beings’ imperfections) or you can have your paradise and utopia (a hellish nightmare, in other words) but you can’t have both. I pay no attention to them, just try my best to foil their grabs for power, which is a 24/7 job.

  • Ashley

    “I can’t believe people would bring a pistol to a movie,” Seriously? After the movie shooting that took place last year I’m surprised other people didn’t pull out guns after this man took that shot thinking they were all going to get blown away. I don’t find it that surprising that someone brought a gun….what I do find ridiculous is that he shot a man for texting in a theater. He was texting during a preview…are previews that important? You’ll see the same thing on tv between every 5 minutes of your precious shows anyways.

  • holly

    Bringing a pistol into a theater is NOT the problem! How about the fact that someone would shoot another individual over a mere annoyance??

  • Dee

    Regardgless to what words were exchanged in theater, the text message, or who was texted… one deserves to lose a life. This act was cruel and meaningless.

Comments are closed.