TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) – A retired Florida police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a fellow moviegoer during a dispute over texting may be freed on bail, a judge ruled on Friday.
Bail was set at $150,000 for Curtis Reeves, 71, who has been in jail without bond since the January shooting at a Tampa-area movie theater. If released on bail, Reeves would remain under house arrest, leaving only to grocery shop, seek medical care or attend religious services.
The case received wide attention, raising concerns about bearing arms in public, cell phone use and the potential application of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.
Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Chad Oulson, 43, after authorities say the two men got into an argument about texting during the previews for a matinee showing of the war film “Lone Survivor.”
Reeves told law enforcement officers that he feared being attacked when he fired his semiautomatic handgun after Oulson stood up and struck him in the face with an unknown object. Witnesses said Oulson, who was texting his toddler’s babysitter, had thrown popcorn.
Pasco County Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa was holding Reeves in jail without bond, but an appeals court issued a ruling on Friday morning that he may set bail. A trial is expected to be scheduled for early next year.
TJ Grimaldi, a lawyer for Oulson’s wife, decried the ruling. “This man, who ripped a family apart and tore them to pieces, is now able to be home in his own bed, see his family, see his son and his grandkids,” Grimaldi told reporters.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Grant McCool)