An altercation in a movie theater almost three years ago left one man covered in popcorn and the other one dead. The media trumpeted it as a prime example of “concealed carry killers,” stoking fears that the increased numbers of Americans exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public would lead to more violent and deadly altercations. “Blood in the streets,” in other words. Now it looks like the trial is scheduled to hit anti-gun bete noir #2: stand your ground laws.
During a screening of “Lone Survivor” back in 2014 Chad Oulson refused to stop texting during the movie. Here in Austin that’s something the theaters take care of for us, but apparently in Florida you’re left to fend for yourself. Curtis Reeves was sitting nearby in the theater and was greatly annoyed by the incessant texting and demanded that it stop. In response, Oulson threw his popcorn at Mr. Reeves followed by his cell phone.
That’s when Reeves drew his firearm and shot Oulson to death. That ended the texting, but also ended the movie.
Anyone who carries a concealed weapon should be aware of the laws of the land. In Florida, an individual is justified in the use of deadly force for a number of valid reasons, one of which is if an attacker is committing a “forcible felony.” According to Florida law, a forcible felony can include many things one of which is “abuse of the elderly” which can be argued occurred when Oulson threw his cell phone at Reeves.
On first glance it appears that Reeves is covered — the target was committing a crime which is covered under the “use of deadly force” statute. The issue is whether deadly force was actually justified in that situation. According to the state of Florida the answer is no.
“The main argument that the state is going to make is, popcorn is not a deadly weapon. Therefore, he did not have the right to use deadly force,” legal analyst Jeff Swartz told CNN affiliate WFTS.
Naturally the media is trying to spin this as a “stand your ground” issue. CNN’s coverage of the hearing puts the “stand your ground” aspect prominently at the top of the article, but the fact of the matter is that “stand your ground” has little to do with what happened in the theater that day. The case hinges on Florida’s justified use of force statutes, a subset of which is the “stand your ground” law CNN has their panties torqued over.
Reeves and his lawyers are arguing that the moment Oulson threw his cell phone he became fair game for the use of deadly force. The state of Florida believes that no reasonable person would conclude that a thrown cell phone justifies armed self defense. The answer to that argument is now up to the court system.