A former Florida police officer who claimed he shot a fellow moviegoer in self-defense after a dispute over texting will go to trial, as a judge ruled he cannot use the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" defense.
Curtis Reeves, 74, had pleaded not guilty in the shooting of Chad Oulson, 43, on January 13, 2014, after Reeves had asked Oulson to stop using his phone prior to the matinee showing of the Mark Wahlberg film Lone Survivor in Tampa.
Judge Susan Barthle made the ruling Friday after weeks of testimony from witnesses, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Reeves will now stand trial for murder.
Among the witnesses were Oulson’s widow, Reeves’ wife and Reeves himself.
"It was his life or mine," Reeves said in court earlier this month, after claiming that Oulson’s actions forced his hand.
Reeves claimed that he told Oulson to stop texting as the previews played, and the younger man responded with a foul-mouthed tirade and climbed over the seat toward him.
"I realized then that I was in a life or death struggle," Reeves said. "All of a sudden, he was no longer a loudmouth. He was now a very definite threat."
The former cop added: "He was getting ready to punch me and I perceived that at some point. And that's when the pistol came out."
When asked by a lawyer what he did with that pistol, Reeves did not hesitate, saying, "I shot him."
The slain man's widow, Nicole, said that her husband was texting their babysitter when Reeves commanded him to stop.
"It wasn't a friendly ask, 'Please or can you, do you mind?'” she recalled in court. “It was just, ‘Turn your phone off and put your phone away.’ Very demanding and very abrupt.”
Surveillance video was played in court that showed the victim throwing a bag of popcorn at Reeves, but prosecutors had claimed it was Reeves who provoked the confrontation.