Former Florida SWAT Captain, Curtis Reeves, aged 79, was acquitted by a jury of his peers on February 24, 2022.
Reeves had been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery for the shooting of Chad Oulson, aged 43. Reeves, who was represented by Escobar, Michaels & Associates, steadfastly maintained from the beginning that he had acted in self-defense.
What led to the incident and trial?
While at a movie screening in 2014, Reeves was seated behind Oulson. He asked Oulson to turn off his cell phone when the movie previews started. Oulson refused, and Reeves went to talk to management.
When he returned, things escalated quickly. The much larger Oulson confronted Reeves angrily, eventually grabbing the older man’s popcorn and throwing it back in his face. Then, he threw his cellphone at Reeves and started climbing over the seat. Reeves pulled out his .380 semi-automatic handgun and fired, killing Oulson.
Is a perceived threat enough to claim self-defense?
Escobar reminded the jury that “…As long as the perception of the shooter is that he reasonably feared for his life, the law protects you.” In other words, if a person feels threatened, they have a right to protect themselves.
Reeves relied on his nearly 30 years of law enforcement service and training when he made the decision to use deadly force. Given the size and age differences between them, Oulson’s lack of self-control and obvious anger, his move to assault Reeves with objects at hand and other factors, the jury agreed that Reeves was justified in his fears – and his use of deadly force.
This ruling could very easily open the door for more cases to be deemed self-defense, but it’s primarily an illustration of how one’s right to use even deadly force is strongly related to individual circumstances and the reasonableness of one’s fears.
If you’re charged with a violent crime after acting in your own defense, don’t talk to the police until you’ve explored all your legal options.