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Theater shooting suspect says facts will clear him of murder charge

WESLEY CHAPEL — In telephone calls from jail, the man arrested in a fatal Pasco County movie-theater shooting discussed with his family his concerns about money, the loneliness he sometimes experiences behind bars and his hopes of being cleared.

“If all the facts come out we should be in good shape,” Curtis Reeves Jr. said during one 15-minute telephone conversation.

Despite some optimism, he also hinted that things might not work out.

“If it need be, you all plan on me not being there, so you plan whatever you need to do to make your life easier,” said Reeves, a retired Tampa police captain. “My life will be easier if you all’s is. Plan for the future and don’t spend all the money on me.”

The recorded conversations were part of a large packet of evidence that prosecutors released to the media this week in the case of the 71-year-old Reeves.

Reeves was arrested Jan. 13 on a second-degree murder charge after he shot Chad Oulson, 43, of Land O’ Lakes after the two men became embroiled in an argument over Oulson texting during previews before a showing of the movie “Lone Survivor” at a Cobb Theatre in Wesley Chapel. As the argument escalated, Oulson, who was in the row in front of Reeves, stood and grabbed Reeves’ popcorn, throwing it at him, a scene captured by surveillance video.

Reeves then pulled a handgun from his pocket and shot Oulson once in the chest. The bullet also struck Oulson’s wife, Nicole, 33, in the hand.

Reeves’ attorneys have argued that Oulson also threw his cellphone at Reeves and that Reeves feared the younger man.

In addition to the telephone recordings, the evidence released by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office included numerous crime scene and autopsy photographs, and a sheriff’s detective’s interview with Reeves in a patrol car right after the shooting. That recording was played in court in February during a hearing in which Reeves was denied bond.

The crime scene photos showed numerous scenes inside the theater, including the popcorn lying on the floor next to Oulson’s cellphone and Reeves sitting handcuffed in his movie seat. Investigators also photographed additional ammunition that Reeves kept in his car.

During the telephone calls from the Land O’ Lakes Jail, family members tried to lift Reeves’ spirits by telling him that numerous people had written letters on his behalf to his attorneys.

“Curtis, you would not believe how many people are supporting you,” his wife, Vivian Reeves, said.

Reeves, meanwhile, said he worried more about his family than himself and expressed concern about the financial strain his legal situation might place on them, suggesting that if they needed money they could sell a motorcycle, a kayak and other items.

Family members reassured him that the money situation was under control.

At the beginning of another telephone conversation, Reeves apologized for calling, but said he was “just kind of lonely.”

Reeves also told his family to watch credit card statements carefully because he worried that all the personal information about him in arrest documents might make him vulnerable to identity theft.

He and his wife also tried to remember what they were doing Dec. 28. That’s the date that a Wesley Chapel couple said they had a run-in over texting with a man they believed was Reeves at the same movie theater during a showing of “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug.” The couple said the man glared at them and seemed to be trying to provoke a fight.

In their telephone conversation, the Reeves said it was unlikely they went to the theater on Dec. 28, a Saturday, because they usually attended movies on weekdays.

They also chuckled at the idea that they would go to “The Hobbit.”

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