On Jan. 13, 2014, a man was fatally wounded and his wife injured during a shooting at the Cobb Movie Theater in Wesley Chapel.
According to the police reports, the male victim, identified as Chad Oulson, 43, was texting during the previews before a showing of the movie Lone Survivor. The alleged shooter, identified as 71 year-old retired police officer, Curtis Reeves, was involved in an argument with Oulson about the texting. According to CNN, a witness overheard Oulson tell Reeves he was texting his daughter.
Reportedly, Reeves left the theater in search of a manager and returned without one. The argument allegedly escalated from there with popcorn being thrown, followed by a gunshot. Oulson’s wife, Nicole, was shot in the hand as she tried to shield him from the gun.
During the week of the shooting, Cobb Theater posted a message on their website saying it was doing everything possible to aid the police investigation. Reimbursements were offered to guests who preordered tickets for Tuesday, the day the theater was closed.
“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,” said Cobb Theaters in their official statement.
The theater reopened on the Wednesday after the incident. As listed on the theater’s website, both cellphone use and weapons are not permitted in the theater. After the shooting, the theater has had a police presence and has been watching for cellphone usage.
“My brother was at the Cobb recently and was going to text before the previews started. An officer came and told him to put his phone away,” said Freshman Alex Koufas.
The safety of public places and what should be done to protect them is called into question.
“I think there should be better security at theaters: like metal detectors, checking bags, and monitoring doors. This could be the start of a trend of shootings at movie theaters. There was one out in Colorado about two years ago,” said Junior Paula Montoya.
“I don’t think the movie theater wants to go overboard with safety. It could turn some people away. There really isn’t much movie theaters can do besides metal detectors and there can’t be a constant police guard there. This was just an isolated occurrence and unrelated to the shooting two years ago,” said Junior Zach Brasseur.
It is unclear what can be done to make theaters safer.
“Metal detectors could be used, but other than that I don’t know how else a theater can be safer. They say no weapons are allowed inside,” said Freshman Chelsea Berry.
Oulson was pronounced dead at the hospital and his wife sustained no life-threatening injuries. Reeves was arrested and charged with second-degree homicide.
“People will still go to movie theaters. Like I said, this was just an isolated thing,” said Brasseur.