Accused theater gunman testifies for first time

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Curtis Reeves Jr. takes the stand to testify during his 'stand your ground' hearing (media pool photo).

Three years ago, he shot and killed a man in a Wesley Chapel movie theater.  Today, the retired Tampa police captain at the center of a landmark 'stand your ground' case, is speaking publicly for the first time.

This is what the defense has been building toward for the last seven days of testimony: Curtis Reeves has taken the stand this afternoon to make his case that he was standing his ground when he shot and killed Chad Oulson.

By now, you might be familiar with the story.  The defense has said the argument started when Reeves -- a retired Tampa officer and former director of security for Busch Gardens -- asked Chad Oulson to put away his cell phone after the previews had started rolling.

Reeves says Oulson threw his cell phone at him, lunged, then grabbed Reeves' popcorn and threw it back at Reeves.

That's when Reeves shot Oulson, killing him in the theater.

"I realized I was in a life-or-death struggle. He was no longer a loudmouth; he was a definite threat," Reeves testified.  "He was reaching for me...He was getting ready to punch me. I perceived that. That's when the pistol came out...At that point, it was his life or mine."

The defense has portrayed the now-74-year-old as a frightened, elderly man who thought he was being attacked.  They've also said Oulson's cell phone was a potentially deadly weapon that was thrown from about three feet away.

Prosecutors said there's no way to know what someone is feeling and whether they're truly afraid.  They showed a photo of Reeves taken moments after the shooting.  A use-of-force expert agreed it didn't appear Reeves had any injuries to his face, which is where he says he was hit by Oulson's phone.

The state has also argued Reeves might have come up with the story because he knew he was going to jail.

Reeves first told his story during a recorded interview with detectives right after the shooting.  But this is the first time he has taken the stand in three years.

Florida's 'stand your ground' law allows the use of deadly force if the defendant can prove that he or she was in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm.

This is the second week of the hearing.  A judge will decide if the 'stand your ground' law applies, or if Reeves will have to face a jury trial on second-degree murder charges.


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