Movie Popcorn Murder Trial: testimony begins after 8 years of delays

Posted at 8:11 AM, February 14, 2022 and last updated 7:58 PM, July 14, 2023

By Katie McLaughlin

DADE CITY, Fla. (Court TV) – After eight years of delays capped by four long days of jury selection, testimony is finally set to begin Monday, February 14 in the trial of Curtis Reeves, the retired Florida police captain accused of shooting and killing a man in a movie theater during a dispute over cell phone use and popcorn.

The shooting occurred January 13, 2014 at a movie theater in Wesley Chapel, near Tampa. Before the 1:20pm showing of “Lone Survivor” began, victim Chad Oulson was texting his two-year-old daughter’s babysitter when Reeves confronted him about using his phone.

The two men began arguing. Surveillance footage from the theater shows Oulson grab 71-year-old Reeves’ popcorn and throw it at him. Reeves then fires a gun, hitting Oulson in the chest, fatally wounding the 43-year-old man.

Nicole and Chad Oulson

Reeves, a retired Tampa police officer, was charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.

Initially, he was denied bond. However, after spending only six months in a Pasco County Jail, according to the Tampa Bay Times, Reeves was released in July 2014 after posting $150,000 bail. He’s been on house arrest ever since.

Reeves, now 79-years-old, maintains he feared for his life once Oulson threw popcorn at him. Reeves’ defense team has stated their client, an elderly man, had no way of knowing what was going to happen next, and that’s why he fired his weapon.

It took over eight years to go to trial due to a series of delays, beginning with a slew of motions and then, most recently, COVID-19-related delays. Another contributing factor is the number of witnesses involved in the case. More than 100 witnesses were present during the shooting, which took place inside a packed theater.

Former Tampa Police Captain Curtis Reeves smiles at members of the gallery while attending the first day of jury selection for his second-degree murder trial on Monday, Feb 7, 2022, at the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City. Reeves is accused of shooting and killing Chad Oulson at a Wesley Chapel movie theater in January 2014. (Pool, Court TV)

Reeves and Oulson’s wives were both present, and could be called to testify. Oulson’s wife, Nicole Oulson, was wounded when a bullet grazed her hand during the dispute.

After a 10-day hearing to determine whether Reeves’ self-defense claim met the criteria of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, the  judge ruled against Reeves’ request for immunity under Stand Your Ground.

In deciding whether Reeves committed murder, the jury will now have to grapple whether he fired his gun out of fear or anger; and whether thrown popcorn merits the use of deadly force.

Court TV cameras will be inside the courtroom, providing LIVE gavel-to-gavel coverage of the proceedings.