The attorney for the retired cop charged with shooting a Florida moviegoer who had been texting his three-year-old’s daycare provider spared his client from an uproar by not speaking the words Stand Your Ground.
But the legal argument that attorney Robert Escobar put forth on behalf of 71-year-old Curtis Reeves at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing in the Pasco County courthouse was the same as if he had uttered the name of the Florida law that says a person is justified in using deadly force if he or she reasonably believes they are in danger of death or great bodily harm.
"The alleged victim attacked him," attorney Richard Escobar told the judge. "At that point in time, he has every right to defend himself."
Escobar reported that 43-year-old Chad Oulson had thrown “an unknown object,” maybe a bag of popcorn, at Reeves.
”Which resulted in gunfire,” Escobar said.
Judge Lynn Tepper was not impressed.
“It may or may not have been popcorn,” Tepper said. "An unknown object does not equal taking out a gun ... It doesn’t warrant taking out a gun and firing it at someone’s chest.”
At one point, prosecutor Manny Garcia told the judge that after Monday's shooting, a woman had come forward to describe an incident at the same movie house in the town of Wesley Chapel last month.
“She was at the Cobb movie theater when she was confronted by the defendant for texting,” Garcia reported.
Garcia said that the 6-foot-1, 275 pound Reeves had even trailed the woman when she went to the ladies room in the midst of the movie.
“He was glaring at her the entire time,” Garcia reported to the judge.
Tepper ordered Reeves held without bail on a charge of second degree murder. He was already in the Pasco County jail, having participated in the hearing via video-conferencing and appearing in the courthouse only on a flat screen affixed to a wall. He looked as forlorn as might be expected of a retired cop who finds himself the one behind bars. He was bare armed under a protective jacket a jail official termed “a kind of flak jacket.” His hands were cuffed together as he rose to return to the cells at the end of the proceeding.
After this initial hearing in Case CRC1400216CFA, the attorney Escobar reminded reporters that Reeves had a distinguished career with the Tampa police. Reeves had served as a street cop and a homicide detective, and he is credited with organizing the department's first Tactical Response Team, the equivalent of a SWAT unit, responding to hostage situations and barricaded suspects, among other emergencies. He had also served as the firearms coordinator when the department was first introducing semi-automatic pistols to replace revolvers.
“A great man,” the lawyer Escobar said.
Escobar may figure that between his client’s résumé and the Stand Your Ground statue, he has a chance to mount a successful Popcorn Defense.
"Certain circumstances will show that he is innocent," Escobar told the press.
But there are other circumstances--these concerning the victim--that could land Escobar’s client behind bars for the rest of his life. Oulson was by all accounts a world class dad, just as his wife, Nicole, is a world class mom. And, as the best parents know, part of making a happy family is to keep a little spark going between dad and mom.
But for dad and mom to go out at night would mean spending less time with their daughter, Lexy. They were away from the child enough while he was at his job running the finance department at a power sports dealer and she was at her job with an insurance company. Dad is off on Mondays and Lexy is at daycare, but it is a regular work day for mom.
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