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Movie theater 'texting murder' brings cell phone annoyance issue to the fore

Jail Cell
Jail CellWikimedia Commons

Texting can get you banned from a movie theater, even if you are Madonna, but killed? Indeed, it has been shown to not just be possible; it actually happened during a 1:20 p.m. showing of "Lone Survivor" at a Wesley Chapel, Fla., movie theater on Monday, CNN reported.

A retired Tampa police captain, Curtis Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder. Reeves, 71, and his wife were waiting for the movie to begin at the Cobb Grove 16 Theater, sitting behind another couple, Chad and Nicole Oulson. Reeves became upset when Chad Oulson, 43, began texting. The incident took place during the preview portion of the showing.

Reeves asked Chad and Nichole Oulson several times to stop, and then Reeves left the theater, apparently to find a theater employee. When Reeves returned -- with no one else -- Oulson asked Reeves if he had reported his phone use to the theater managers, prompting an argument which included the throwing of popcorn.

The incident escalated when Reeves pulled out a gun. Nichole Oulson tried to block the shot with her hand, but received a gunshot wound instead, while her husband received a fatal injury.

Sheriff Chris Nocco said,

The victim was on his cellphone, he was texting. We believe he was making some kind of noise. This noise led to an altercation. During that altercation, the suspect decided to pull out a .380 and he shoots the victim.

The incident could bring to the fore not debate about guns, but debate about the jamming or blocking of cell phone signals in certain venues. Jamming, though, is illegal.

Several ironic points:

  • Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said in a news release that Reeves was instrumental in the establishment of the department's first tactical response team. He was a captain when he retired from the department in 1993.
  • After he retired, Reeves worked security for the Busch Gardens theme park.
  • He was also on the board of a neighboring county's Crime Stoppers organization.
  • Reeves' son also is a Tampa officer.

The theater's website lists a number of bans, including no cell phone use -- including texting -- while in the theater auditorium. In addition, no weapons are allowed.