WESLEY CHAPEL — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating why roughly $7,000 is missing from an account established for the family of movie theater shooting victim Chad Oulson.
Sheriff’s investigators have been working the case for about a week and are following leads, said sheriff’s spokesman Eddie Daniels.
Oulson family attorney TJ Grimaldi said there was an agreement with the person who set up the fund to “shift the money to us.” He would not identify the person who set up the fund.
“We inquired with this person about getting money forwarded to us, as was the agreement from the get-go,” Grimaldi said. “We kept asking this person for the money to be shifted, then we found out it’s gone.
“It’s about $7,000, but it could be more,” he said.
Grimaldi said that his law office has also raised money for the Oulson family, and those funds are unrelated to the missing money.
Grimaldi said that Westshore Pizza, PDQ and Texas Roadhouse have all held fundraisers for the family and that those funds are not in question.
“There’s just one outside source via a GoFundMe account, and some other avenues, and that’s the money” that’s missing, he said.
Joseph Detrapani, a family friend who worked with Chad Oulson at SKY Powersports in Port Richey and organized a motorcycle rally to raise money for the family in February, said he could not comment on the issue.
“All questions go to (Nicole Oulson’s) attorney,” he said Monday. “I’m not making any comments on anything for them.”
Grimaldi declined to comment about Detrapani or Detrapani’s fundraising efforts.
Westshore Pizza put a statement on the company’s Facebook page to make it clear all the money the company raised was turned over to Nicole Oulson. Keith Koehler, a co-owner of Westshore Pizza, said Monday he felt compelled to do that after initial TV news reports about the missing funds were vague.
“There were multiple fundraising initiatives, but Westshore Pizza’s was contained within its own bubble,” Koehler said. “None of the checks were made payable to any of us. They were made payable to Nicole.”
He said the person being investigated by the sheriff’s office had once approached him about combining their fundraising efforts, but Koehler declined.
Koehler, who is a certified public accountant, said after he learned about the missing money, he provided assistance to Grimaldi and Nicole Oulson in reviewing the account that is being investigated.
Oulson, 43, was shot to death Jan. 13 by retired Tampa police Capt. Curtis Reeves, 71, during movie previews at the Grove Cobb 16 theater in Wesley Chapel. The men were waiting to see “Lone Survivor,” a movie about the Afghanistan war.
Reeves shot Oulson in the chest during an argument over Oulson texting his young daughter. Witnesses have said that Oulson grew tired of Reeves’ badgering, and there is video of Oulson throwing popcorn in Reeves’ face.
Reeves was charged with second-degree murder, and a trial is expected to begin early next year.
Last month, Reeves was granted bail and was released from the Land O’ Lakes Jail, where he had been held since the shooting.
Oulson’s widow, Nicole, said the money theft only adds to the family’s woe.
“It is unfortunate that during a very devastating time in my life there are people that would take advantage of a tragic situation for their own gain,” she said in a statement released by Grimaldi. “It hurts even more to know that it was someone close to me that was trusted.
“My concern is not for myself or the money. My heart aches for those that donated with kindness in their hearts that were taken advantage of. Although there will always be struggles, I will continue to focus on the positive and know that the community is filled with love and support.”
Meanwhile, Grimaldi said he can’t fathom how someone could promise to help a grieving family, then take the money.
“We noticed the money was missing for a while,” he said. “We tried to retrieve it before we let (the sheriff’s office) know.”