Police tape surrounds the Cobb Grove 16 movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Florida on Jan. 13, 2014. Credit: Reuters
The man charged with shooting and killing a fellow moviegoer during an argument over cellphone use in a Florida theater is a retired police officer who says he feared being attacked.
Curtis Reeves, 71, a former Tampa police captain, was charged with second-degree murder after Monday's shooting.
He was denied bond during a video appearance from jail before a circuit court judge in Pasco County on Tuesday afternoon and faces possible life in prison if found guilty.
The killing occurred before the showing of a new combat drama "Lone Survivor" that stars Mark Wahlberg and tells the story of four Navy SEALs on an ill-fated covert mission in Afghanistan. The movie is based on a New York Times non-fiction best seller.
The Pasco County sheriff's office said Reeves was watching coming attractions with his wife when they got into an argument with 43-year-old Chad Oulson and his wife, who were seated directly in front of them in the Tampa-area Grove 16 movie theater.
Oulson was using a cellphone to text message or make a mobile video call to a daycare center or babysitter looking after his 3-year-old daughter.
According to an arrest affidavit released by the sheriff's office, Reeves said he brandished and fired his .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun after Oulson stood up and struck him in the face with an unknown object.
Oulson's wife, Nicole, was wounded in the hand by the same fatal gunshot that hit her husband in the chest, police said.
Although the affidavit quotes Reeves as saying he was "in fear of being attacked" when he fired his gun, witnesses said Oulson had only thrown a bag of popcorn at him.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters outside the movie theater on Monday that it was "absolutely crazy" for an argument over a cellphone to escalate so badly out of control.
Lawyers for Reeves could not be reached for immediate comment, and it was not clear whether he would seek immunity from prosecution under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.
The statute allows people to use deadly force to defend themselves from serious injury, rather than retreat to avoid confrontation, if they believe their life is in danger.