Two Rudes, Don't Make A Right - The Case of the Wesley-Chapel Theater Texting Murder 
THIS WAS TOO CLOSE TO HOME!
I HAVE BEEN TO THE WESLEY CHAPEL THEATER MANY TIMES OVER THE YEARS visit my condo nearby in Land o' Lakes, FL. They have a dinner theater section where the balcony section was made into a bar-bistro affair. You can order dinner, find your place in these wonderfully large and cushy seats, and before the movie starts, you are served a very delicious meal.
From where I sit, I might have been able to look down on the murder that took place that day, Monday, January 13, 2014.
TEXTING AND GUNS DON'T MIX
APPARENTLY CURTIS REEVES DOESN'T LIKE TEXTERS in movie theaters, for he just killed one of them a few days ago at the Grove 10 theater in Wesley Chapel, FL; he has confronted others in the recent past. Here is the setting.
The movie is, ironically, to be the Lone Survivor; but it hasn't started yet, the previews are showing. Nevertheless, nobody is supposed to be texting at this point, yet Chad Oulson was. So, at the outset, he was clearly in the wrong, regardless of why he was texting (supposedly to his daughters baby-sitter). Next, the following events happen:
- Curtis Reeves, sitting to his rear with his wife, asks Chad to stop texting, and was ignored.
- Curtis then leaves, properly so, to notify management, but fails to do so as the manager was tied up with other customers.
- Curtis returns to the theater, visibly irritated, according to witnesses, and confronts Chad again.
- Chad rebuffs Curtis once more asking something to the effect "did you go tell the manager on me?"
- At some point during this time, Chad stood up and faced Curtis in order to continue the argument.
- At the conclusion, while Chad's wife put her hand on Chad's chest to calm the situation (or him) down, he throws popcorn (probably at Curtis).
- Curtis then pulls out his .380 semi-automatic, concealed handgun and shot Chad in the chest, first hitting Chad's wife in the hand, killing him.
- Curtis then calmly sits down and waits to be arrested.
It is a very simple story and won't lead to the very lengthy piece I did on the Zimmerman-Martin killing; this, by the way, apparently isn't going the "stand-your-ground" path which Reeve's attorney initially raised. Nevertheless, there is still many things to talk about. Oh, Curtis has been charged with second degree murder.
A WHOLE BUNCH OF "BUT FORs" ...
"BUT FOR" IS ACTUALLY A LEGAL CONCEPT. It means "but for" this action, then that result would not have occurred. Not only does Judge Judy use it a lot, but so do real judges. In this situation, there are a lot of minor, but only three major "but fors" that I can see:
- "But for" the cell phone, Chad wouldn't have died
- "But for" the gun, Chad wouldn't have died
- "But for" Curtis not finding another seat, Chad wouldn't have died.
In this particular situation, in my opinion anyway, only the last "but for" carries any weight and is why Curtis is probably going to plead or by found guilty of second degree murder. So, what about "Fault"? Whose fault is it that Chad died?
First and foremost, I think it is Chad's fault. Again, there are three reasons for this:
- He shouldn't have been texting in the first place
- He should have stopped when asked the first time
- He should have stopped when asked the second time and not confronted Curtis
Next, it is Curtis' fault because:
- He should have pursued the manager or found someone else to complain to
- Failing that, when seeing that Chad was going to be confrontational, moved to another seat
- When Chad did get confrontational, go back out and haul the manager's butt back in.
- He should never had pulled his gun, especially with his training has a police officer and head of security
Third, it is the theater's fault for not actively enforcing their No Texting policy. It is obvious when somebody is texting or using their cellphone, it is a beacon to those behind you in a dark theater, no matter hard you try to cover it up. Having monitors at the top of the stairs during previews and the beginning of the show is not a hard or costly thing to do.
GUNS DON"T KILL PEOPLE
WHILE I HAVE DISMISSED THE "BUT FORs" in this case, they are still worth discussing because they are huge social issues; each, cell phones and guns impact, in both positive and negative ways, our lives on a daily basis. The Wesley Chapel theater murder is just one example of the harm each can lead to when present.
I never have bought the argument that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" or in this case, cell phones as well[ it is too simplistic a denial because you cannot get around the simple fact that "but for" the gun being present, the likelihood of Chad Oulson being alive today is very high. Now gun advocates will argue back that is was Curtis who pulled the trigger, and that is very true, for they can say "but for" Curtis pulling the trigger ... Nevertheless, he had to have the trigger to pull in the first place. No gun, no murder (at least by gun anyway), it is as simple as that. Could Reeves have killed Chad another way? Sure, but much less likely, wouldn't you say?
Now in one of the CNN articles I read, someone tweeted,
"WRONG ... if you removed the person of questionable mental state from the equation, no one would have died. The gun did nothing on (its) own, it takes a person to pull the trigger. Stop blaming inanimate objects for the actions of human beings. This man, police officer or not, had no business with a firearm, yet because of his past job as a police officer was accorded a permit that in most states the avg. citizen cannot get, and in fact is accorded the right by the federal government if he applies and meets certain qualifications. This (man's) actions prove that he should not have had a gun, or any other weapon, if he was willing to use lethal force over someone texting in a movie theater. Put the blame where it belongs."
I think the tweeter is wrong on several accounts. 1) how does he presume to know the mental state of Curtis Reeves? There is nothing in any story I read that suggested he was anything but normal up to the time of the shooting; although he did appear stunned by what he did afterwards. 2) even the tweeter said him or herself, the gun had to be there to be fired, once activated, the gun actually did kill Chad ... all Reeves did was make the hammer strike the primer (when a gun jams, you don't say the shooter jams, do you?); from that point on, it is all gun; Reeves couldn't stop it even if he wanted to, could he? 3) A police officer, retired or not, has, of all people, every right to possess a concealed weapon; over the course of a career, the chances they have pissed off a lot of bad guys is high.
Finally, the kicker, the tweeter says "the man's actions 'prove' he should not have had a gun" ??? Who is supposed to have the crystal ball, lol. Another flaw with the "don't blame the inanimate object argument" is where do you draw the line? Should it be OK to haul a flame thrower into a movie theater since "it" can do no harm, only "its" user can? How about the even more ridiculous example of someone bringing live grenades into the theater with their pins removed; they are safe so long as the owner doesn't let go. I suppose there are some out there who would say yes, but I think not. Now if you can draw the line at live grenades with their pins removed, why can't you draw the line at handguns, with certain exceptions (of which Reeves would have been one).
While I am not opposed to people possessing firearms of any type, or even carrying them concealed, for that matter, I am opposed to where they can do so, especially concealed, and theaters are one of them. For that matter, that extends to any enclosed (or very crowded) public place or any public or private facility with any form of mind altering (now that pot is legal in a couple of States) drug is allowed to be consumed. There was a reason saloons made gunslingers check their weapons at the door back in the 1800s. I think cellphones ought to be checked at the theater door as well except for emergency personnel.
ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WERE SANCTUARIES in America, theaters were one of them, churches another, and schools a third (if you ignore the bullies). None of that is true anymore. Hardly a week goes by without one or two reports of children getting shot, and often killed in school. Monthly, there is another report of a theater shooting and churches are no longer immune. College campus' and malls have always been favorite targets and the NRA's answer in every case is do not regulate but arm everybody in sight and let them defend themselves; this is America after all and the 2nd Amendment is first among equals; it certainly beats the hell out of life, liberty, and property.
The point the CNN article made is there is no place left in America where its citizens can feel safe any longer; and that is doing a number on our over all psyche. I seriously doubt anybody has a clue as to the long-term effect that is going to have on American society, but it can't be good.
Over to you, readers.
© 2014 Scott Belford