Stupid Tragedy, Yes, But Is Anyone Surprised?

Curtis Reeves, a 71-year-old former Tampa police officer, shot and killed a man this afternoon inside a Tampa movie theatre, reportedly over a texting argument. It happened during a showing of Lone Survivor at the Cobb Cine Bistro in a Tampa suburb called Wesley Chapel. The victim has been identified as Chad Oulson, a husband and father who reportedly had explained to Reeves that he was texting his three-year-old daughter. Oulson’s wife Nicole was also shot but only in the hand — i.e., not fatally.

A local news report includes the following (and this is the key thing): “A witness recalled seeing [Reeves] get up and leave in an apparent attempt to find a manager. When he came back alone, the argument escalated.” In other words, if a theatre manager had calmly but firmly intervened and insisted that Oulson stop texting (or that he needed to text from the lobby), it’s entirely possible that Reeves would have felt placated and wouldn’t have shot Oulson.

I blame Reeves, of course — this was obviously the act of an unstable personality. But the errant manager of the Cobb Cine Bistro, I feel, bears a portion of the responsibility.

Management never gets involved in these matters. Talkers, texters, bellowing apes…managers are always unavailable. They always chicken out, hiding in their offices, “busy,” etc. Movie theatres have become chaotic, emotionally dangerous environments to some extent. Handguns, cell phones, hair-trigger rage…it’s Dodge City out there. I know — last month I dealt with an asshole who wouldn’t shut up during a screening of The Wolf of Wall Street, and all I did was stare at the guy and he was thisclose to starting something with me.

This was a problem from the get-go because it was a generational dispute — Reeves is retired (probably in his late 60s or early 70s) and Oulson, the father of a three-year-old, was presumably fairly young — a member of the texting generation who probably had a comme ci comme ca attitude. And then along came Dirty Harry — a conservative man who undoubtedly felt that that Oulson was being unconscionably selfish and violating his rights as a moviegoer, and who couldn’t hold it together. And who was packing.

The truth? Oulson was being unconscionably selfish and violating Reeves’ rights as a moviegoer. He obviously didn’t deserve to die for texting, but you can’t say he didn’t at least flirt with the possibility of trouble by doing so.

Charles Cummings told FOX 13 he heard the victim say he was texting his 3-year-old daughter before Reeves pulled out a pistol. ‘Their voices start going up, there seems to be a confrontation, somebody throws popcorn, then bang, he was shot,’ said Cummings, who was there to celebrate his birthday. ‘I heard the victim say, ‘I can’t believe…’ then he fell on us.”

“‘I asked if the guy was OK, and he started gurgling blood and then fell,’ recalled Cummings’ son, who said he ran to call 911.”

Observation About Above Video: Father and son in baseball caps — a mark of rural-ness. Charles Cummings, a heavy-set, decent-sounding fella, is doing the talking while his son with the yellow T-shirt is standing to the side…chewing gum. He’s on camera, a big moment, being seen by millions…and he doesn’t get that chewing gum makes him look like a total yokel. Oh, I get it — the son was nervous about having been through a shooting and he needed to chew gum to calm himself down.

  • Mechanical Shark

    And obviously this is why everyone should be carrying a gun!
    Or as the onion put it, everyone needs an 800 lb. attack gorilla to protect from the potential of being attacked by another person’s 800 lb. attack gorilla.

  • MovieSquad

    Is anyone going to question the bit about a three year old texting?

    • Mr. F.

      If I had to guess, it was an inarticulate way of saying “I was texting the three-year-old’s babysitter to let the three-year-old know everything was OK and to stop crying,” or something similar. Or else whoever was in charge texted to say “Where did you leave the food for the three-year-old? I can’t find it and they’re freaking out.” (or similar)

      Maybe it’s the parent in me, but I didn’t read that as just “having a text” with a three-year-old kid, but as something more urgent.

      Then again, as Zach said: it’s Florida.

  • MovieSquad

    Alamo Drafthouse may want to rethink their pre-movie PSAs that show people getting shot/killed/etc for talking during a movie.

    • joeybot

      I liked the one where a woman got a hole drilled in the back of her head and some dude fucked the hole (yes, this was actually made).

  • Zach

    “But is anyone surprised?”

    It’s Florida. So, no.

  • Jeff Unchained

    Went to see an Eastwood movie years ago where some rowdy teens talked loudly throughout. They rudely refused to be silenced by other patrons’ requests. When the lights finally came up, a guy sitting in front of the group accused them of ruining the movie and proceeded to WHALE THE TAR out of the rudest loudmouth. Beat the living crap outta him. As my wife and I left we saw a squad of young-ish ushers rush in to quell the disturbance – but really, what could they do? This was in Los Angeles before everyone was packing heat…

  • Actually

    “Stupid Tragedy, Yes, But Is Anyone Surprised?”

    That you would write this post? No, not surprised at all!

    • What’s your problem? If you can’t be roused to explain your view in two or three sentences, that’s a fairly clear indication that you have a problem or a blockage of some kind.

      • Aaron Paul’s Tuxedo

        Sure, this incident is totally a wakeup call to the texting moviegoers of America. Maybe we can get Goldthwait working on some safety videos for our schools with titles like Screens of Agony, Deadly Concessions and Are We Not Entertained?

        That’s the healthy perspective here.

        • Glenn Kenny

          What really keeps this post from the platonic ideal of Wellsian crassness is the lack of commentary on the witness’s weight. You’re slacking, Jeff.

          • You saw a photo of the victim?

            • Glenn Kenny

              No. Why don’t you post one? Maybe you can find one of him dead, and do an LOL Cats-style “We’ve All Got It Coming” caption.

              • She stood up and talked back boldly & courageously to the animals who attacked her and others. NO parallel whatsoever.

  • George Prager

    Good thing Reeves was packing or someone might have gotten hurt.

    • DukeSavoy

      The proper way to handle this is to issue firearms to everyone as they enter the theater. Then all will be properly able to defend themselves from talkers, texters and terrorists and the 2nd Amendment can recline in Heaven on buoyant clouds of patriotic gunsmoke.

  • erniesouchak

    Not surprised at all. God knows I have had the impulse to commit violence against the a–holes who text in theaters.

  • Muscle McGurk

    Unfortunately there is no solution for this inevitable rise of gun violence. The constitution clearly states we all have the right to shoot at least one person.

  • D.Z.

    I feel bad for Goldthwait. He was just trying to be satirical, and now his movie will be blamed for that trigger-happy douche’s actions.

    • Mr. F.

      Given how many people actually saw his movie… Bobcat’s got nothing to worry about.

  • Arthur Crittare

    The news report this morning on MSNBC said he was texting “before” the movie started.

    • Mr. F.

      Yeah, confirmed today that it occurred during the trailers.

  • Paul Marzagalli

    I went to see “American Hustle” last night, and a couple arrived right as the movie was starting with 3-4 year old. They promptly handed her a smartphone without headphones so she could play Angry Birds and watch movies. They made vague attempts to control her, but of course the screen was bright as can be and the volume would keep creeping up.

    If the Tampa cop had shot those parents, I would have felt bad, but probably not until later on. I think the girl would have been ok. She would have been too busy playing Angry Birds to notice.

  • Gil Padilla

    I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more.

  • Brian Bouton

    But is anyone surprised?

    Yes, nearly everyone is surprised because this story is making headline news in countless media outlets. It is extremely rare to be shot dead in a movie theater for texting.

    FYI—Wesley Chapel is a white-flight suburb of Tampa and home to a wide cross-section of middle and upper class residents who’ve fled further north from the city to escape minority populations. It’s pretty far from rural in the present day.

  • Mr. F.

    Apparently Reeves is going to claim he was within his rights under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law… since the victim threw popcorn at him. (And no, that’s not a joke)

    • Reverent and free

      If Oulson threw the whole popcorn bag at Reeves’ face, it was a pretty stupid thing to do, and something he should have expected to provoke, at the least, a fight.

      • Mr. F.

        Sure. But deadly force?! Come on.

        • Reverent and free

          Of course not, but you’ve got to be careful anytime you get in someone’s face: “What do you mean funny? Funny how, like I’m a clown?”

  • bentrane

    He was texting during the previews, for God’s sake. Who gives a shit? If he had been texting during the film itself, that’s a different matter. But the previews are fair game. Anyone who gets upset by talking or texting during the previews is seriously unhinged.