DADE CITY, Fla. — The Curtis Reeves trial had its most consequential day yet on Thursday, with Curtis Reeves taking the stand in his own defense.
Reeves was the first and only witness of the day. He took the stand a little before 9 a.m. and was asked about his career in law enforcement over the years and what he had learned in his experience. From there the defense asked him about his health and problems he had with pain and limitations leading up to the shooting in 2014.
Eventually, the defense got to the actual day of the shooting and the events that transpired. As Reeves was talking about Chad Oulson's cell phone being lit up during the movie previews, a phone rang in the gallery, causing a stir and leading the judge to remind everyone to silence their phones.
According to his testimony, Reeves asked Oulson to put his phone away in a calm manner during the previews, but said Oulson responded by telling him to "f*** off" or "get the f*** out of my face." Reeves said he went to the manager and complained about Oulson using his phone, and Oulson used a lot of profanity and he didn't feel comfortable dealing with him anymore.
Reeves said when he got back to his seat he tried to diffuse the situation by saying "if I had known you put your phone away I wouldn't have involved the manager." At that point Reeves said he saw a flash, Oulson was on his feet and he felt he had been hit on the top left side of his glasses.
"The 'F' word seemed to be his primary vocabulary at that point," Reeves said of Oulson. Reeves called himself defenseless when he was in his seat with Oulson standing up. He described him as looking like a monster.
"He was a threat that was very close to me. He was reaching for me or trying to get over the seat again. I couldn't get up. I was trapped," Reeves said. He said he had no other choice and reached for his pistol. Reeves said he feared he "would be seriously injured or killed" by Oulson. He then fired one shot and Oulson turned away. He put the pistol down and sat down.
The defense then began questioning him about his intent. Reeves said he didn't want to shoot anyone. "I came to the theater with my family to enjoy the movie, not to be attacked by some guy that was out of control," he said.
Reeves said he's never experienced anything like this in a theater or anywhere else. He said it was a shock anyone would actually do that. He said the whole thing happened in the blink of an eye.
Reeves says he never saw Oulson throw popcorn at him. "I shot Mr. Oulson because I thought he was going to seriously injure me or potentially kill me," he said.
The defense had no further questions and the court took a lunch break. Reeves' testimony resumed shortly after 12 p.m.
As Reeves retook the stand, he was cross-examined by the state. He was asked about his eyesight and his glasses, stating that the glasses he was wearing in court were the same he was wearing the day of the shooting.
The state asked Reeves if he killed Chad Oulson out of rage or blind fury. He said, "No sir, I killed him out of fear." The state then asked if he snapped and killed Oulson, to which Reeves said no.
The state then went on to ask Reeves about the years he trained in the police academy. Prosecutors asked Reeves about the difference in the number of hours it took to complete the academy when he did, compared to the hours required now.
In its argument, the state said Curtis Reeves initiated contact with Chad Oulson three different times before Oulson stood up. Reeves admits he's second-guessed everything that happened over the last eight years. The State finished questioning him and the defense returned with more questions.
A little before 3 p.m. the defense rested its case. The judge sent the jury home for the day and said closing arguments would start first thing Friday.