“This is unimaginable,” Nicole Oulson said Wednesday morning, speaking to news reporters for the first time since the Jan. 13 shooting. “Me and my husband didn’t get a date night very often, much less a whole day to spend together, so I was just so excited and looking forward to spending the day with the love of my life in a place of family entertainment.
“And just to think in the blink of an eye, my whole world just got shattered into a million pieces and now I’m left trying to pick them up and put them all back together. It’s so hard and it’s so unbearable.”
Oulson, flanked by lawyers TJ Grimaldi and Stephen Leal inside a conference room at the law firm McIntyre, Panzarella, Thanasides in downtown Tampa, spoke for about one minute.
During her unscripted statement, she expressed gratitude for the support, both emotional and financial, she and her family have received from members of the community.
“I just want to thank you all on behalf of myself and my daughter, Alexis, and our family for your understanding, all of your thoughts and prayers, and also support from the community during this horrible time of grief and sadness for our family,” she said. “Right now I’m still trying to recover from the shot and my main focus is, and always will be, on my daughter, Alexis.”
Oulson, who did not take questions, left the conference after her statement. A reminder of the gunshot wound she suffered to her left hand was hard to miss — a large, lavender cast enveloping her left hand and arm.
It was that gunshot that went through her hand and into her husband’s chest, killing him, during the Monday afternoon incident at the Cobb Grove 16 Multiplex in Wesley Chapel.
She had surgery on the hand Jan. 16, which took longer than expected, Grimaldi said. He said it might be an indication the wound is more serious than initially diagnosed.
Curtis Reeves, 71, a former Tampa police captain, was arrested inside the theater and charged with second-degree murder. He remains in the Land O’ Lakes Jail with no bail.
An argument about Chad Oulson texting the couple’s baby-sitter immediately preceded the shooting.
Investigators said Reeves, after leaving the theater to complain to staff, returned to his seat and the two exchanged words. Investigators said popcorn was thrown before Reeves pulled a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his pants pocket and shot Oulson in the chest.
Oulson’s attorneys said their main focus now is helping the family deal with the shooting’s aftermath — a wife without her husband and a 22-month-old daughter without her father.
“I think she’s lucky, and I think we’re all lucky, that she’s as young as she really is,” Grimaldi said of Alexis. “Being 22 months old, she doesn’t understand everything right now. So all she knows, I think, is that daddy’s not there. In my opinion, being a father, that’s enough.”
Reeves’ attorneys requested bail during a Jan. 14 appearance before a judge and are expected to do so again at a Feb. 5 hearing.
“We understand that would be a normal request made by any defense attorney in that situation,” Leal said. “We obviously oppose that.”
Leal said a judge at the next hearing will like look at two factors: is Reeves a flight risk and is he a danger to the community.
“Frankly, given his ties to this community here in Hillsborough County, I don’t necessarily think he’s a flight risk,” Leal said.
As for Reeves posing a threat, Grimaldi said he does.
“Everyone with a cell phone is at risk,” Grimaldi said. “I mean, you never know when this guy is going to go off again and everyone has a cell phone, so I think that should be the judge’s main concern here.”
Wednesday’s news conference came four days after Oulson, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in Operation Desert Storm, was memorialized at a funeral in Land ‘O Lakes.
An investigation of the slaying has continued in Pasco County, with detectives keeping many elements of the shooting under wraps. Text messages and a 911 call from the theater have not been released. Nor have investigators completed toxicology reports on Oulson or Reeves.
Detectives also attempting to confirm the story of a Wesley Chapel couple who reported a confrontation with Reeves during a Dec. 28 matinee at the same theater complex in which the woman texted a friend during previews before a showing of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The movie-theater shooting grabbed the nation’s attention. Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco was interviewed by CNN’s Piers Morgan and HLN’s Nancy Grace, and a Wednesday addition of the New York Times ran a front-page story about the deadly confrontation.
In response to inquiries about donations to help the family, Oulson’s attorneys said they have set up a trust fund for the family. Information is available on the firm’s website.
Other local business, including Westshore Pizza and Chad Oulson’s employer, Sky Powersports in Port Richey, have raised roughly $20,000 for the family.
“It’s been tremendous,” Grimaldi said. “I want to … thank the corporations that jumped on this from the very beginning. Before I was even involved, Westshore Pizza started a grass-roots campaign that has really been unbelievable to say the least. It started with a picture of a check and it exploded form there on Facebook.”