WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. - An argument over texting inside a Wesley Chapel theater led to a fight and shooting that left a man dead and his wife wounded Monday afternoon. The suspect is a retired Tampa Police captain, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Curtis Reeves, 71, now faces a second degree murder charge.
"It's crazy. I never thought something like this would happen at our theater," said Leny Vega, who is a theater employee.
The shooting occurred at the Cobb Grove 16 Theater at at 6333 Wesley Grove Boulevard near State Road 54 and I-75 around 1:30 p.m.
The victims are identified as Chad and Nicole Oulson. Chad Oulson was texting before the movie started, Sheriff Nocco said. Sitting behind them were Reeves and his wife.
Sheriff Nocco said Reeves asked Oulson to stop texting. When he didn't, Reeves went to the lobby to complain.
When he returned to his seat, an argument ensued and then turned physical. Reeves pulled a .380 pistol and shot Oulson, Nocco said. Witnesses told deputies Oulson had just texted his 3-year-old daughter.
Oulson's wife had put her hand in front of her husband and was shot in the hand.
Reeves then sat down and put the gun on his lap. An off-duty Sumter County deputy happened to be in the theater and acted to secure the weapon.
Nocco said the movie, "Lone Survivor," had not yet started when the shooting occurred.
It wasn't immediately clear how many people were inside the theater during the gunfire.
According to Tampa Police, Reeves retired from TPD as a captain in 1993 and was instrumental in establishing the department's first Tactical Response Team. In a release, a department spokesperson said there was no indication that Reeves had any contact with TPD since his retirement.
"Something happening like that in little Wesley Chapel is just, I never even thought it would happen," said theater employee Gabriel Mena.
Traffic in the immediate area was shut down.
"It is absolutely crazy that it would rise to this level of altercation over somebody just texting in a movie theater," Nocco said.
In summer 2012, a man killed a dozen people and injured 70 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Twenty-six-year-old James Holmes is charged in the killings.
"When the first call came in and you're hearing a shooting at a movie theater, The first thing you think is those critical incidents that have gone on throughout the country. That's why we train for them," Nocco said.
Late Monday afternoon, Cobb Theatres issued the following statement:
"We are deeply saddened by the events that occurred earlier today, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. The theatre is currently closed, and we are actively working with the sheriff's office on this investigation. This was an isolated altercation between two guests that escalated unexpectedly. The safety, security and comfort of our guests and team members are always our top priorities, and we are truly heartbroken by this incident."