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Judge denies bail for retired Florida cop in fatal movie shooting

Curtis Reeves Jr. looks into the gallery during his bail hearing in Dade City, Florida, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Jones/Tampa Tribune/P
Curtis Reeves Jr. looks into the gallery during his bail hearing in Dade City, Florida, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Jones/Tampa Tribune/P

By Kenneth Knight

DADE CITY, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida judge denied bail on Friday for a retired police captain facing charges of second-degree murder and aggravated battery in the January 13 shooting of a fellow moviegoer in an argument over texting.

Curtis Reeves, 71, said he feared for his life when he fatally shot Chad Oulson, 43, in a movie theater in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa, according to an interview played at a bail hearing.

"The guy scared the hell out of me," Reeves said in a 29-minute audio recording of a police interview played publicly for the first time at the hearing.

"If I had to do it over again, it never would have happened," Reeves told detectives. "I would have moved."

Reeves' attorneys said he should be given bail because any action he took was to defend himself.

But Circuit Court Judge Pat Siracusa ruled on Friday that Reeves will stay in jail until he stands trial, wrapping up a two-day bond hearing that featured elements of a mini-trial, including surveillance video of the incident.

Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, said he planned to appeal.

In court Friday, Escobar said Reeves was in fear of his life, and reacted on instinct and training to defend himself.

Reeves said he became upset when Oulson would not shut off his cell phone as the previews began at a matinee of the combat drama "Lone Survivor."

The two men exchanged words. Reeves said Oulson told him he was texting his daughter's baby-sitter.

Reeves left to contact a manager, but returned to his seat alone moments later. More words were exchanged, and Reeves said Oulson grew more aggressive and leaned in toward him.

"I had nowhere to go," Reeves said on the recording. "I kept leaning back. Then he was virtually on top of me."

Reeves said he fired the gun because he believed Oulson had hit him. He described feeling pain in his left eye and shoulder.

Escobar said his client believes he was struck by Oulson's cell phone. "This is not a popcorn throwing case, but throwing a deadly missile case," Escobar said.

Eyewitnesses testified Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves.

A prosecutor said on Wednesday that Oulson did not strike or touch Reeves during the altercation.

The grainy, 29-minute video showed Reeves' movements in Theater 10 the day of the shooting, but not Oulson's, who was seated outside of camera view.

The video showed Reeves being stuck by an unknown object that appeared from out of camera view, and Reeves raising his right hand in a forward motion.

Reeves' defense attorneys persuaded the judge to allow an enhanced version of the video to be shown in court. Escobar said his version showed Reeves being struck in the face by Oulson's cell phone.

After viewing the defense team's version, the judge said he could not tell what object created the moving light on the screen.

Audio recordings of interviews with both men's wives also were played for a judge on Friday.

Vivian Reeves said Oulson cursed at her husband when he asked him to "stop playing with his cell phone." Oulson's widow, Nicole, described Reeves as being rude and nasty.

Nicole Oulson said she stood and placed her hand on her husband's chest to help calm the situation just before the shooting occurred.

A single bullet struck both of the Oulsons. Nicole Oulson was shot in the left ring finger, and her husband suffered a chest wound.

"I saw a spark and heard a pop," said Nicole Oulson, whose left hand was bandaged as she sat in court on Friday.

(Editing by David Adams, Colleen Jenkins, Gunna Dickson and Lisa Shumaker)

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