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Man who killed inside movie theater after texting dispute freed on bond

By Kevin Conlon, Greg Botelho and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 10:03 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Curtis Reeves Jr. was released on $150K bond Friday
  • Reeves shot and killed Chad Oulson in January after an argument over text messaging
  • Reeves' lawyer says his client acted in self-defense
  • Lawyer for Oulson's wife calls it "difficult pill to swallow"

(CNN) -- Curtis Reeves Jr., the man charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting a man inside a Florida movie theater in January, was released from a Florida jail on $150,000 bond Friday.

Reeves had been held in the Pasco County jail without bond since he shot and killed 43-year-old Navy veteran Chad Oulson after a confrontation over Oulson's text messaging inside a movie theater in the Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel.

An appeals court ruled Thursday that "the record suggests no special circumstances or other factors that would justify a reasoned discretionary decision to deny pretrial release."

On Friday, Judge Pat Siracusa -- who wrote in his ruling that the court was "hesitant to announce in open court...the specific enumeration of reasons to deny bond," -- adopted the appeals court ruling.

Wife 'devastated' after suspect gets bail

Siracusa's bond conditions stipulate that the 71-year-old Reeves is allowed to leave his home only to attend church, court dates, medical appointments, and to go to the grocery store. The former police officer must also "surrender all firearms in his home to either the Pasco Sheriff's Office or to his lawyer, Richard Escobar," according to the order.

Escobar said Reeves is "a wonderful family man" and "a church-going man" who is "coming home to resume his life and help prepare his defense."

A spokesman for Oulson's wife said the news was a "difficult pill to swallow."

"He ripped her family apart and now he can be home, be in his own bed, and see his children and grandchildren," said T.J. Grimaldi, Nicole Oulson's attorney. "It is unbelievably unfair."

Heated argument escalated

The hearing in February that resulted in Reeves initially being denied bond served almost as a mini-trial.

Over 12 hours of testimony was heard over two days from witnesses who had also gone to see "Lone Survivor" that day.

One patron, Charles Cummings, testified he overheard 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 asked aloud whether he could check a voice mail from his daughter's babysitter, according to Mark Douglas Turner, a retired Air Force veteran.

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."

Popcorn flew in Reeves' direction soon after.

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

Escobar said Friday that Reeves "used the law of self-defense to preserve his life just like every citizen has the right to do," and described Oulson's conduct in the theater as violent.

But Grimaldi warned Friday that with Reeves back on the street, it could happen again.

"Reeves is an absolute danger to society," said Grimaldi. "He went from throwing popcorn in someone's face to murdering someone. This could happen to someone else."

Witness describes shooting

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