Florida man shot dead in cinema texting row

Sheriff Chris Nocco and eyewitness Charles Cumming describe the incident in this report from ABC News reporter Steve Osunsami

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A retired police officer shot dead a fellow cinemagoer in Florida in an argument over texting, police say.

Ex-officer Curtis Reeves, 71, opened fire after asking a man sitting directly in front of him to stop texting several times, a Pasco County Sheriff spokesman said.

Chad Oulson, 43, died in hospital.

The two men, accompanied by their wives, had been watching the previews for a matinee screening in Wesley Chapel, north of Tampa, on Monday.

Start Quote

Somebody throws popcorn, I'm not sure who threw the popcorn, and, bang, he was shot”

End Quote Charles Cummings Witness

The victim had explained that he was texting his three-year-old daughter, witness Charles Cummings told FOX 13 television.

Mr Reeves has been charged with second-degree murder.

Confrontation

The two couples had been waiting to watch the new war film Lone Survivor at the Cobb Grove 16 cinema in Wesley Chapel when the row broke out.

Mr Reeves apparently stormed out of the auditorium to get a manager, but returned without one.

"Three seconds, four seconds later, the argument starts again," Mr Cummings said.

"Their voices start going up; there seems to be almost a confrontation. Somebody throws popcorn, I'm not sure who threw the popcorn, and, bang, he was shot."

Mr Oulson's wife, Nicole, was wounded as she had placed her hand over her husband just as he was shot, sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said.

A nurse in the audience tried performing emergency resuscitation on the victim while an off-duty sheriff's deputy detained the gunman, according to reports.

"The male victim is deceased. The female victim was injured with non-life-threatening injuries," Mr Tobin said.

Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said Mr Reeves was a captain when he retired from the department in 1993, according to the Associated Press. After he retired, he was on the board of a neighbouring county's Crime Stoppers organisation.

The cinema, part of the Cobb Theatres chain, was reportedly evacuated and closed.

''It's crazy. I never thought something like this would happen at our theatre," ABC News quoted cinema employee Leny Vega as saying.

Lone Survivor, based on a New York Times best-seller, stars Mark Wahlberg and tells the story of four navy Seals on an ill-fated covert mission against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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