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Bail denied for man accused in fatal Florida movie theater shooting

By Greg Botelho and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Lawyer: Curtis Reeves will appeal bail ruling, looks forward to trial
  • NEW: Chad Oulson's wife says she's "very happy and relieved"
  • Judge Pat Siracusa sides with prosecutors, who said Reeves shouldn't be allowed bail
  • Reeves is charged with murder in the shooting of a man who allegedly texted in a theater

Editor's note: This story contains graphic language that may not be suitable to all readers.

(CNN) -- The 71-year-old ex-police officer accused of shooting dead a man inside a Florida movie theater won't get the chance to go home -- at least for now -- after a judge Friday decided not to grant him bail.

Judge Pat Siracusa made his decision after two days of wrenching, evocative, at times seemingly contradictory testimony inside a Dade City, Florida, courtroom.

"The state did, in fact, meet their standard," Siracusa said of prosecutors argument that Curtis Reeves shouldn't be allowed to post bond. "And I am going to detain Mr. Reeves, pretrial. He will remain in custody."

Reeves' lawyer signaled his intention to appeal a decision that -- while not unexpected, given this is a homicide case -- he believes is unwarranted. The attorney, Richard Escobar, said that he's optimistic about not only the appeal on bail, but that a jury of six citizens will side with his client.

"Mr. Reeves is truly an innocent man," Escobar told reporters. "And we look forward to proving that at a jury trial at some point."

The widow of the man that Reeves killed, meanwhile, applauded Siracusa's decision.

"I'm just very happy and relieved," Nicole Oulson said. "... I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision."

No threats before shooting, widow says

Was it self-defense or an overreaction?

As Siracusa took pains to point out, his opting not to grant bail has nothing to do with his or others assessment of Reeves' guilt or innocence. That won't happen until trial.

The date for that hasn't been set, though Siracusa did schedule the next pretrial hearing for March 12.

That falls on one day under two full months since Chad Oulson was shot dead inside the Grove 16 theater in the Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel.

Was the younger, more physically imposing Oulson killed in self-defense, as Reeves' lawyer claims? Or did Reeves overreact -- to the idea that Oulson was texting his toddler daughter as movie previews played -- by taking out his gun inside the theater and firing, as the prosecution argues?

The bail hearing, which began Wednesday and resumed Friday after a day off, served almost as a mini-trial in itself.

Both sides called witnesses, then often strongly challenged those put on the stand by the other side.

Reeves' daughter, Jennifer Shaw, testified that her father was supportive and even-keeled, having never erupted in anger at a stranger from her recollection.

The prosecution called a number of people who'd been in the Florida theater the afternoon of January 13.

Charles Cummings talked about overhearing Reeves and Oulson talking, and at one point, the latter said, "I'm just texting my 2-year-old daughter." Soon after that, a "very agitated" Reeves left the theater, then returned a few minutes later.

At that point, a fairly calm Oulson -- according to Mark Douglas Turner, a retired Air Force veteran who worked as a clandestine officer -- asked aloud whether he could check a voice mail from his daughter's babysitter.

The situation devolved after more words were exchanged. Alan Hamilton, an off-duty Sumter County sheriff's corporal, said he heard Oulson say, "I am trying to text my f**king daughter, if you don't mind" -- using graphic language that Reeves' lawyer said suggested Oulson was angry and threatening.

Popcorn flew in Reeves' direction soon thereafter.

"And almost immediately," recalled Turner, who said Oulson threw the bag, "the gun comes out and there are shots fired."

Reeves to police: Oulson 'scared the crap out of me'

Hamilton testified that, soon thereafter, Reeves' wife told her husband "that was no cause to shoot anyone."

Reeves responded by pointing his finger at her and saying, according to Hamilton, "You shut your f**king mouth and don't say another word."

On Friday, those in the Dade City courtroom got to hear from Reeves himself -- not because he took the stand, but because audio of his interview with police was played in court.

During that interview, Reeves told police he had "reason to believe (Oulson) was going to kick my ass" after Reeves confronted the 43-year-old Navy veteran over his texting during the previews to "Lone Survivor."

Widow: 'My whole world just got shattered'

Reeves and his wife both told police that Oulson began using foul language, and Reeves left to talk to a theater manager. When he returned, Oulson stood up and turned to confront Reeves, he said.

"I see that he's very explosive, unnecessarily," Reeves told police. "It scared the crap out of me."

Oulson edged toward Reeves -- and "he's virtually on top of me" -- and Reeves told him either "no, no, no" or "whoa, whoa, whoa," he couldn't remember which, he told the police interrogator.

"He hit me with something. I assume it was his fist," Reeves told police. "I think he had a cell phone in his hand because I saw the blur of the screen. ... My face went sideways. My glasses came partially off."

In her own interview with police, Vivian Reeves backed much of her husband's story, spelling out the f-word for police as she described Oulson's language during the altercation.

Asked, though, whether she saw Chad Oulson strike Curtis Reeves, she replied no -- though she said it's what her husband told her after the shooting.

The same went for the various theater witnesses who testified earlier for the prosecution. None of whom said that they saw Reeves getting hit by anything beyond perhaps a bag or some kernels of popcorn before he opened fire.

Surveillance video captures theater shooting

Beyond hearing from various witnesses, the public -- thanks to the gathered media -- got their own glimpse of what happened inside that movie theater, thanks to surveillance video.

Will alleged Florida shooter get bail?
911 call: Witness begs victim to breathe
Widow: My whole world was shattered

The jumpy, grainy footage shows Reeves return to his seat at 1:26:19 p.m., according to the video's time stamp. Six seconds later, Reeves appears to lean forward, but only for a second.

At 1:26:30 p.m., the video stops -- likely because the motion sensors weren't activated, according to previous testimony in Reeves' bail hearing this week -- but it starts recording again five seconds later.

That's when a hand extends in front of Reeves, from the seat where victim Chad Oulson was reportedly sitting, and appears to snatch something from Reeves -- the defense has repeatedly said Oulson threw popcorn -- and throws it into Reeves' face.

Reeves' right hand, the one Reeves told police he used to shoot Oulson, thrusts forward at 1:26:37 p.m. A strange dust falls in front of the surveillance video lens as theater patrons begin walking over to the area where Reeves remains seated.

It's the row behind where a mortally wounded Oulson -- after stumbling then collapsing on another moviegoer -- is taking his last breaths.

Couple describes encounter with Reeves

CNN's Marlena Baldacci and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

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