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This Is Not About Texting: A Story of Movies, Men and Violence

This Is Not About Texting: A Story of Movies, Men and Violence

Chad Oulson, the 43-year-old father of a 3-year-old girl, was fatally shot by a 71-year-old retired police officer after a brief argument in Land O’ Lakes, Florida yesterday. Oulson’s wife, who threw her arm across her husband in a vain attempt to protect him, was also wounded. Those are the facts, as we currently know them.

That the argument between Oulson and Curtis Reeves, the man who murdered him, began when Reeves asked Oulson to stop using his cell phone during the previews of a screening of Lone Survivor has led some outlets to describe it as “an argument over texting,” and the New York Times went so far as to link it to disputed reports that the AMC chain had considered adding texting-friendly rows or even screenings.

When the story broke yesterday, I sent the link out on Twitter, and a number of my colleagues did the same, mostly without comment. But a number of movie sites, including the one that employs me, picked up the story, and a few individuals took the opportunity to say things like, “Maybe it’s time to consider allowing texting in theaters?” At Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells went so far as to say, Oulson “obviously didn’t deserve to die for texting, but you can’t say he didn’t at least flirt with the possibility of trouble by doing so.”

As I see it, this is not a story about texting, and certainly not one that can responsibly or sensibly be tied into a larger debate about movie theater etiquette. It’s a story about guns, and men, and violence.

It’s true that the dispute between Oulson and Reeves apparently began over texting: Oulson was texting his 3-year-old. Reeves asked him to stop. Oulson refused. Reeves left the theater, apparently to look for a manager, and after failing, returned to his seat. And then the confrontation turned physical. According to witness Charles Cummings, Reeves and Oulson started arguing again almost immediately, and popcorn — he’s not sure by whom — was thrown, at which point Reeves drew his .380 handgun and shot Oulson in the chest. Cummings, a Marine who saw combat in Vietnam, said that Oulson gurgled blood and said “I can’t believe I’ve been shot” before he died.

A digression which I hope will eventually seem relevant: In December, I went to a neighborhood cultural center to see Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux. I’d been waiting over a year to see the film in a theater and on 35mm, so I was excited for its only local screening, if a little wound up from the crunch of year-end assignments. There weren’t many people there, perhaps two dozen, and with an audience that small — and a director whose past films were so deliberately daunting — you’d expect they compromised only the hardiest and most dedicated of cinephiles. But sure enough, a few people started to pull out their cellphones, and since no one else was doing it, I took it upon myself to ask them, politely but firmly, to stop. 

As I returned to my seat the second time, in something of a rush so as to minimize the distraction, my foot connected with the bottle of soda I’d left on the floor, which went skidding down the nearly empty row. I could see a figure sitting by the far aisle, and I could have gone over and apologized, but I thought I’d save that for after the film, and to be honest, I was ashamed of my clumsiness. So I sat back in my seat and turned my attention toward the screen, which is why I didn’t see the soda bottle as it came whizzing back and hit me in the shoulder.

That, as they say, led to an argument. Most of what followed is a blur, although I know plenty of harsh words were exchanged. And then, dear reader, I shoved him. It was pretty pathetic, really, an impulsive, half-blind act that if my memory can be relied upon barely connected with its intended target, but the intent was clear: I wanted to start a fight — or, more accurately, I felt one had been started, and I wasn’t going to back away from it.

Fortunately, that was more or less that. The other man suggested we step outside, I told him in the most profane language I could muster that I had no interest in doing so, and I sat back down in a vain attempt to concentrate on the rest of the film. Needless to say, the screening was ruined, for me, and, quite probably, for everyone else. I’m not sure what I could realistically have done differently, apart from being less of a clumsy oaf, but I’m genuinely sorry for that.

Was texting a part of this confrontation? A little. Did it have anything do with it? Not really. Mostly it was about men and their overblown sense of entitlement, and about the fact that in spite of my liberal political views and generally shy demeanor, there’s a part of me that’s essentially a lizard. I should know better, and I usually do, but no matter how evolved I may fancy myself, a part of me is stubbornly stuck in the Stone Age. It doesn’t matter how ill-equipped I am to follow through on those reptile-brain impulses, or how badly I’d fare were I to get in an actual fight — and man, would that be a sad and shameful spectacle — sometimes I see red and want nothing more than to beat the crap out of something.

This is what’s known, popularly, as the urge to kill, which we mostly use in (partial) jest. But put a gun on someone’s hip, and suddenly it’s not a metaphor anymore. I’m not saying I would have shot that man, but I have no way of knowing whether he might have shot me. Curtis Reeves probably would have. And it wouldn’t have had a damn thing to do with movies or texting or anything but what happens when you combine human nature and a deadly weapon. Chad Oulson’s murder is a tragedy, and a terrible reflection on the state of our nation. But it reflects even more poorly on our culture that a man was shot dead in a public place, and instead of a gun, we blame his phone.

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I was acquainted with Chad Oulson when he still resided with his wife in Illinois. I'm sure he was a good father and had plenty of family and friends who loved him, but when I knew him he had a smart mouth and was an occasional antagonist. I never met his wife, but knew people who did, and stated that she was a nice woman.

His character background doesn't make Oulson culpable for the violence of a belligerent who illegally totes a gun to a movie and then shoots someone who is irritating him. However, I was not surprised that Oulson, instead of moving away from the a**hole, antagonized the situation further, asking the guy if he reported him to theater management, then throwing popcorn at the guy. (I've heard that Oulson also started yelling at his killer, but don't know if that information is credible or rumor at this time. If it did happen, again I wouldn't be surprised.) He reasonably didn't have the expectation of being shot, but he shouldn't be been shocked if the old guy smacked him. I think he was irritated by an old guy complaining and, in his rather bullying mentality, thought he could mouth off to the man and get away with it. I'm wondering why the murderer felt the need to shoot someone who simply pissed him off, rather than changing seats. I'm wondering what Oulson was hoping to accomplish by smarting off – certainly he didn't expect to die for it.

I was no fan of the guy, but it's sad his wife and child have to deal with the repercussions of two men who chose to up the ante. The murderer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent, but this is another warning for everyone to back off from petty confrontations, rather than encouraging them.


If the theater allows for cellphone use before a feature begins, it's not impolite, it's permissiable, and personally inferred rudeness is not cause enough for escalation to deadly violence/confrontation. You can say something is rude or inconsiderate but that is your personal judgement, and there are multiple nonlethal ways to deal besides letting your anger or fear or entitlement issues flow into your empowerment issues of gun usage. Saying the victim is the cause of his or her death or victimization seeks to shed too much of the blame for the person who inflicted the greater harm. It makes it open season to attack others, and then after the fact exclaim "I can't believe what I've done" after the fact.


I hope the writer of this article doesn't have a concealed weapons permit. He sounds like an ass.

Kerri Sipper

The "victim" participated in his own shooting by simply refusing to be courteous. Once he was aware that his phone use was bothering someone, he should've excused himself from the theater and continued texting in the hallway, not argued that he was justified in being rude because of whom he was texting. It is only common courtesy, which too many people these days think does not apply to them. He would still be alive if he had simply been polite.


If you don't get the manager but do manage to bring a gun in the theater, you've escalated the threat to everybody in the theater, not provided a proper resolution. The theater is the authority, either make sure you get the manager or resolve to not create the possibility of fatalities, it's a jerk move to endanger the lives of others over someone texting before the features begins. Depending on the theater, texting, talking, loud eating is allowed up to the beginning of the feature film, with a spot running before alerting people to then please turn off cellphones, go out to the lobby with crying children, locate your exists, nothing about find your gun as if you've entered the range. And unless full to the brim, there are other seats away from the fatal light of a phone screen.


I know on the surface this sounds outrageous, but by all accounts I've read the "victim" was a class A jerk who refused to stop texting and then instigated and escalated the incident after the retired cop did the proper thing and went to the manager. I'm having a hard time having any sympathy for him.

No, there was not sufficient fear of life for the retired cop to legally use deadly force, but if you're going to be a jerk and continue to incite things, don't be surprised if one day you find out you've incited a crazy person.

king crimson

Note: Next time you go to some disgusting Hollywood gun-fest, there may just be some sort of psycho freak sitting behind you packing heat. This is a natural outcome of going to celebrate killing afghani's in what is an extremely contestable war. It's a shame these people learned the hard way.


I don't own a gun But if I did I would blow the fuc-en head off every asshole on cell phones at the movies what the hell amater with pricks on cell phones in this theater shooting he was asked more than once shut the freaked phone case closed I would behave emptied the clip in him yaaaaaaa


No, it's not about texting, and while it should be about the lunacy of being allowed to carry a gun everywhere, it's also about courtesy and civility. Neither man behaved properly. If we can all agree about the reckless stupidity of Reeves, where does that leave Olson? He's still dead. It can't be denied that if Olson had put the phone away, and not gotten into a heated argument with an old man, he'd still be alive. Why be an inconsiderate, confrontational jerk? You never know who you're going to come up against.


"I'm not sure what I could realistically have done differently . . . ."

You could have apologized. Or you mean to say an apology is unrealistic? If that's so–then the Florida shooting is not a surprise, is it?

Camel Toe

Imagine a camel, used to transport straw. It's a strong camel, for many years it's carried heavy loads of straw.

But one day, a man gets greedy, gets inconsiderate, wants more than he should, doesn't care about the camel or it's back – and the man puts more and more and more straw on the back of the camel.

The camel tries mightily to keep standing, but it can only support so much – only so much.

And snap – the break happens.

Would you blame the camel for the breakage?! Would you arrest it, lock it up, give it no chance for bail? All the while calling the man 'poor poor man,' 'poor poor family of the man.' Such a pity.

A camel (man) can bear only so much – if later today I do something inconsiderate to someone and they go ballistic, it's just common sense to assume there's more going on under the surface of that person.

Just be considerate. Choose not to be and suffer the consequences.

Don't overwhelm, as we never know which lightweight piece of straw will actually be the one that breaks the camel's back.

Mel Holden

I am female, and the following happened about two years ago when I was in my early 50s. I was in a movie theatre in Anchorage, theatre was full. Movie starts, and I hear a cell phone ringing, belonging to the woman sitting on my left. I felt my blood pressure immediately rise, especially annoyed that she hadn't heeded the message on the screen just before the movie started, to not use cell phones during the movie. She talked a little, then put her phone away. I hoped she'd just forgotten to turn it off, hoped she felt bad about disturbing others, and now had it off.


A little while later it rings again, she takes it off, starts talking quietly but definitely loud enough to be heard, and I hiss at her 'TURN YOUR PHONE OFF!!!!!' She just looks at me, like I'm an annoying bug she's considering squishing. She then says 'It IS off' and I'm confused why she'd say that, and honest to God, I did not think about it before doing it, but I lightly elbowed her, it just happened. It not at all hard, just a slight nudge, but that certainly raised her ire. She said 'Don't you elbow me!'

At that point, despite my film going experience pretty much ruined, I was a little happier. After making me unhappy, now she was unhappy – good! I go back to watching the screen, she sits there staring at me, then gets up and leaves.

I'm a little anxious, thinking management will be coming to deal with me, but try to ignore it and go back to losing myself in the movie I'd paid good money to see.

Soon she returns with a guy, who asks me to step out of the theatre – I say I don't want to – mention that her repeated cell phone usage has caused me to miss too much of the movie already. He keeps insisting, and for the benefit of those seated around us who are being disturbed, I go out with him. Meanwhile she returns to her seat (!?) He explains he can't have people hitting other customers, and I try to explain the entire story, including the parts she'd likely left out. He just cuts me off – and says I need to leave. I insist she be made to leave also, he doesn't seem to be concerned about her. I think about just walking back into the theatre, to the seat I paid for. But know it'd likely cause further distraction for the other patrons, so I leave.

Meanwhile I doubt she's stopped using her phones during movies – and bet she felt so vindicated at how she was treated. Meanwhile I get angry just thinking about it.

I used to go to the movies about once a month, now it's a couple of times a year, and almost every time I see a couple of people using their phones, the light and ringing or talking reminding me I'm sitting in a movie theatre rather than being lost in the story.


pointless article… wow, you're "macho" enough to not back down from a fight, big deal. If someone throws a pop bottle at you in a theatre, you go to the front desk, and have that person removed from the theatre.
The real issue is the fact that the United States allows civilians to wander around in public with concealed firearms and it's becoming obvious with news stories like this that are society cannot handle the responsablilty of using lethal force and it needs to be reformed. This story has already been twisted by proponents of the NRA lobby that is about texting, on that topic, you were correct, but the reality is that we live in a society and have to tolerate annoying things when we leave our homes. Bringing guns with us is inviting more violence to others, not protecting us. There are VERY few stories about public heroes "saving the day", and more and more like this, mentally unstable people executing unarmed people.

ken verlaque

You are an ass . You said it yourself that when your foot hit the bottle that you stupidly left on the floor and it hit someone else that you were GONNA APLOIGIZE but you decided to wait till later . Wait till later ???? No you didn't give a shit . Thats why the bottle came flying back at you . What a dumbass . But people like you will never believe that they did anything wrong , will you . Lucky for you someone didn't shoot you for your rudeness , I would have !


Some of you say none of this would have happened if A or B was done, but maybe, while speculating on what could have been, maybe it would have happened anyway. Maybe the roles could have been reversed and the gentleman with the gun would have not liked to have been told to not do something, and being empowered by his gun, would have escalated his superiority. What ifs are okay but not relevant, the facts of the matter are. Some theaters allow phone usage, talking, and eating before a movie begins, and have messages that ask people to silence their phones and kids right before the movie begins, as well as encouraging you to go out to the lobby to buy some food.


Duh, blame the man not an inanimate object. What are you alluding to by blaming guns for actions taken by men? Are you one of those big government cheerleaders begging for more regulation and a more powerful central government to save us from ourselves?


Wrong. It's a story about poor manners and self-entitlement complexes. See what happens when we all think we can break rules? Rules are for EVERYBODY. You feel the need to text in a movie theater or similar environment where same is FORBIDDEN? Maybe you should see a doctor. Could be that you have ADHD. "Normal" people are quite capable of focusing their attention on one thing. And, not disturbing others with their own selfish pursuits.


Dear Catherine,
Again, I must apologize, I try responding directly to comments, but it says, "page is not found." So I will have to respond in normal comments, and hope you are able to see my response. I just wanted to thank you got pointing that out, that really makes sense, also I learned they don't count accidental deaths as homicides. As I mentioned in my first response, I found my information from the United Nations, while reliable, I didn't think of it the way you did, and the with your knowledge of statistics.
Thanks again for enlightening me, and for being kind, and polite,


No one has pointed out yet that we don't have the whole story here. Unless, you were sitting next to these people, all you are reading is guesses about what really happened. The reality is WE DON'T KNOW. We know someone lost their life but we don't have a clue about why.


This is another senseless death in a Stand Your Ground state. Newspapers have reported anecdotal evidence of an increase in incidents like this one in Florida. SYG is a bad policy that turns altercations into life-and-death situations. As JUSTANOTHERGUY stated, the retired police office should have know about applicable laws.


My dad is a retired military officer. I once asked him why he didn't keep a gun like most of his other friends in the army. He said, knowing his temper he would use it and that's why he refused to keep one.


"I'm not sure what I could realistically have done differently…" In hindsight it probably would have been prudent to go over and apologize immediately. As for the blame… how about the guy that shot him? Neither guns nor phones act of their own volition.


Texting made the old man angry. "Texting" is not the issue. Being irritated by someone elses behavior is the issue. It could be talking, crinkling candy wrappers, standing up to go to the bathroom frequently, smelling of smoke, having an irritating laugh or laughing inappropriately and so forth. Shooting someone to death and wrecking a family over an irritating behavior is simply evil. The old man reeks of entitlement and arrogance. Send him away for ever! irritating someone and killing someone are not the same.


Everyone pointing out Chad shouldn't have been on his phone during PREVIEWS of the movie because its a policy, is failing to point out this particular theatre also had a posted "no weapons" policy. In my opinion, Curtis Reeves was being much more inconsiderate of other people and the policies when he brought his gun into the movie. There is a lot more going on during previews than people texting. People are talking, opening candy bags, moving around, etc. Any movie I have been to the reminder to turn off your cellphone comes right after the previews, just before the movie starts. Seriously though, how can texting during previews be so much worse than ignoring posted requests to leave the guns and knives at home?


Everyone that text during a movie has a good reason of their own as to why,if everyone in the theater had a good reason at the same time would that be OK? No would be the correct answer.This country has lost all sense of common courtesy. In a theater it's simple,be quite,shut of cell phones and keep your feet off the seat in front of you.


I appreciate the personal angle behind Sam Adam's point. It's too easy to externalize opinions, and he took a chance by outing himself as culpable. I wonder what inspires someone to even throw popcorn, or a bottle, at someone. Taking a step away, one can imagine every other possible thing to do to find a way to satisfy something as luxurious as entertainment needs. I could write a list of alternative outcomes, as I'm sure most anyone who values public / communal shared experiences. The entire exchange, along with the tunnel vision as far as possible actions, is indulgent. Public accountability is the only thing that keeps us from total chaos.


for me, its another story about the enforcers. the police are being armed more and more heavily and are faster to use deadly force. The retired Captain was not used to being told "no" he could not handle it…and why should he? he was trained to use deadly force, to command others to do so and our society increasingly gives people like him passes for killing the non-compliant


Dear Baffur,

I tried responding to your question directly, but the page won't load. The most accurate data accepted by all countries as factual is it's the 2013 survey and report from the United Nations. The easiest to see, and understand is Wikipedia's murder by country color graph, found by searching google; murder rate by capita by country. The United States is 1-2 per 100,000 almost all developed countries are 0-1, or 1-2. Ironically if you take out Chicago, L.A., Detroit, and Miami, we fall below the norm. The cities with the MOST gun crime, also have the Most gun regulation. Implying bully's (criminals, gangsta's) don't fear retribution by fire, so they are more brazen. At any rate, the most shocking, if you took away accidental gun deaths, we would be far below the norm. I hope this sheds insight, and understanding.

Thanks for being so polite,

Human one

Two alpha males in close proximity. The young one, Chad Oulson, wasn't following the pack rule of "No cell phones are to be used IN THE AUDITORIUM" and is now gone. He could have texted outside the auditorium and lived to tell about it. The elder, Curtis Reeves had spent his life putting himself between us and those that will not follow pack rules. A few observations… Chad was big, which leads me to think he was not used to backing down or taking orders. Popcorn? Easy to determine who threw it by the scatter pattern. All photos of Chad where with his family or daughter. Yet his friends described him as out moto-crossing every chance he got even though he was much older. I mention this because although a big man in stature he may have been more juvenile than 43 emotionally or mentally. Moto-cross? Isn't that more of a singular enjoyment as opposed to interactive family fun time. As for Mr. Reeves and his gun? I am sure he had carried an off-duty gun for years. Had Chad been there as a madman shooting up the theater I am certain he and his gun would be being heralded as heroic. Everyone has two-sides. The wrong sides met. The results are terribly tragic. A little girl lost her father. A woman her husband. And the other, possibly his freedom. If either man had softened himself to the situation none of us would be typing today. Use this as a lesson to soften yourselves to those around you. Sometimes it not about you. – Smart people will learn from their mistakes. Wise people will learn from the mistakes of others. Be wise, be safe.

Master Dingo

"It's a story about guns, and men, and violence."

No, it's not. You're being a misandrist because of one event. Both sexes are guilty of incredibly violent offenses and knee jerk killings:

[There were a bunch of links here, but your site wouldn't allow me to post with them. Just look up the search term, "Woman shoots" to see my point. ]

I think that the common denominator in all of these stories is a gun. There may be fist fights over texting, but if a gun is involved, the violent repercussions will be tenfold. I'd rather have you weakly push me with all of your impotent rage than draw and fire. It would be nice if we could both angrily walk away after the dispute.


Blaffer, I tried to respond directly to your comments, but the page wouldn't load. I hope you check and see I answered you here. The most accurate data agreed upon by all countries is, 2013 study of world hommicide rates by country. The easiest to understand, and see is a color graph of the world by country on Wikipedia found by Google search, murder by capita, by country thee United States, is 1-2 per 100,000 thousand most all developed countries are 0-1, or 1-2 per 100,000 if you took out Chicago, Detroit, L.A., and Miami. We would be below the norm. Odd observation, the places with more gun regulation, have more of a problem. I understand that we have more guns then any other country, and that if you take away accidental shooting deaths we are again below the norm. It's a fine line between bully and defense.


I would resume this tragedy like this…American Psycho kills American brat.
The victim didn't want to put his phone away, even though cellphones are not allowed in the theater. The ex cop, felt like he was still a cop and acted like one on duty.
Surprisingly the ex-cop was an experienced officer dealing with high tension situations, but he snapped and killed a man, who didn't deserve to get shot since he wasn't a threat to him and Reeves knew he had a gun on him. Guns are banned on Movie Theaters.
Popcorn is not a weapon, and it doesn't matter if Oulson was 6 ft tall. The bottom line here is, someone with ZERO angriness control killed a man.
Now is turn of the Media and lawyers trying to get out of jail the retired cop.
America is not a safe place anymore, arrogance and zero tolerance surrounds some gun owners, including the happy trigger cops with serious psychological problems.

Mr. E

The simple fact is the texting guys fighting tactics suck. Why on earth would you use popcorn as a weapon in a gun fight? Some seem to think death related to an altercation is something new. Well guess what … It's not. From the beginning of time men have fought and one man walks away. That's just the way it has been and always will be. Perhaps neutering all males at birth except for a few perfect specimens to carry on our proud linage would be acceptable? Turn all men doesl little creatures.

Blue Tommy

This is the wild west-cowboys. The article misses the point completely-rather than allowing for texting rows-have you considered BANNING the gun in theaters? Haven't Americans learned enough from all these killings that it is THE GUN THAT KILLS-if there was no gun, this tragedy will not have taken place. With a knife the victim can run away but with a gun-there is no hope. The constitution should be amended to remove the right to bear arms like slavery. This is a travesty. This is not the 1st time that insane men have killed people in public places!

Dubbel D

If I would die the same way like Oulson did, I would be very dissapointed and haunt forever. For myself, I try to carry my phone as little as possible. Especially when I'm going out. A wise man said: I fear the day when technology overlaps our humanity. It will be then that the world will have permanent ensuing generations of idiots.
– Albert Einstein


It has become, I suspect, the greatest excuse in the book: "I'm texting my kid"…or "I'm texting the sitter. *I need* to make sure everything is going okay. So back off."

Absolute crap. Did parents refrain from going out before cell phones? Of course not. And they probably had a much better time being out together as part of a larger community and not being self-absorbed idiots who need to check up on precious Johnny every 15 minutes despite the annoying distraction it creates.

This is an important issue here. The guy didn't deserve to die, but people need to put away their damn technology in theaters and other such places. We need to explore jamming them, except for 911. I believe they do that in France and other places.


While not being very well educated, or very wealthy, I always wonder why people blame, "the gun". While I hate violence especially useless violence. Gangs, wars, suffering, discrimination etc. I wondered why everyone thinks America has a gun problem. So… I looked on Google, and I couldn't believe the number of people/countries that hate America, and love to call us, "gun loving, to the point of paranoia", I also looked up their murder rates, they are astonishingly similar, some more, some less, close though…. It appears they are just being murdered different ways, if their are no guns, it's knives, hammers, rope, spears, or hands. All developed countries have a similar murder rate. So, always being the little, or old in this case, or weaker, when are allowed to win? Not to sustain injury or death yourself? As in the movies, should you wait, if your still alive, until the music starts playing, and broken and battered lift yourself up, and triumphantly win? Because….. Speaking from experience, I generally lose, and with fewer teeth, more fear, and a failed justice system. I am reminded of two quotes: " god made man, smith and Wesson made them equal". And " blaming a gun for shooting, is like blaming a pencil for a misspelled word". Look at all the gun laws Chicago has, the most of any state or city in the U.S. Yet the highest rate of gun violence. I am eternally grateful that we have a police force, wich we should call at times like these. I pray for both families.


What people are failing to see, is the fact that chad would be alive this very minute…had he displayed even a little courtesy and respect for others.


Dear Sam "the Lizard King" Adams,

I don't take umbrage with your speculative conviction that this isolated act of violence is representative of a culture that worships guns. It is not worth your time or my time to analyze how the premise of your facile essay exploring the roots of violence in America fails to break new ground, or how you voluntarily acknowledge that you will resort to violence only when you are in a safe environment. What I find most problematic with your precious attempt at intellectualism is your use of ineffective metaphors.

"there's a part of me that's essentially a lizard"
" stubbornly stuck in the Stone Age"
" It doesn't matter how ill-equipped I am to follow through on those reptile-brain impulses"

The only thing that got me through your editorial was imagining it was drafted by one of the carnivorous reptilian humanoids from V. Reading your editorial was like viewing a Carlos Reygadas film; daunting in its flimsiness.


So I guess if we blame the gun in one story we should blame the soda bottle in the other. Fact is, people are showing very little curtesy to each other now a days. They want to think only their view matters, whether it's about getting their texts out or I forcing their "law" on others.


It's a bit shocking, for us non-Americans here, to read this story and realise the issue of whether a guy in a movie theatre has a gun is such a non-issue in the US that the author has a long rant without even raising it as problematic. Seems that to him, it's just one of those natural things, like sometimes it rains. Actually most of us who live outside the US find your nation's tolerance, even mania for guns despicable, crazy and, frankly downright weird.


Wait…his 3 year old texts?


I doubt very much the retired police Captain left the theater and came back with a gun. He probably had a conceal weapons permit and carried it on him always. The fact that he decided that he would use it in a theater is wrong, wrong, wrong. Unless he was in fear for his life, and that was not the impression of any of the witnesses. When the person in front of me at the movies is playing on their phone and its enjoying my enjoyment of a movie, I change seats. But the movie wasn't even playing, it was the previews. The retired police Captain got angry and decided he would be king of the hill and shoot a man. Now the child has no father and the police Captain's life is ruined also. I bet if he was honest he would have done things differently.

My mother cautioned me when I said something to a lady who parked in a handicapped spot with no endorsement on her license plate or hang tag in her vehicle. I said something because I was parked in a regular spot trying to assist my mother who is a paraplegic out of the car.

Words are words and should not result in violence. Sticks and stone and guns my break my bones but words will never hurt me. Better your feelings or pride get bruised than a life be taken.

I say to the old man who drew a gun in a movie theater – grow up. The world does not revolve around you, and two wrongs, do not make a right. Enjoy your prison food. I hope, but doubt, that the old man will spend any significant time in jail. He'll get bond and go home. Its a shame.

As for the person who said Florida should be roped off. Its not Florida but the idiots with guns who think the world revolves around them, who use poor judgment who should be roped off, and unfortunately there are many of those spread all over the US. This is not a Florida issue.

Chris, mother of a toddler

I'm disappointed you used a photo of the family in which the face of a now fatherless child was not blurred out. I'm sure you weren't the first to do so, or maybe you are; either way, it's shameful. Her face is now linked your trite and unimpressive attempt to relate her tragedy to your social awkwardness. Oh my gosh, you were in a fight once? You could have died, and are glad you didn't ( as am I), but you're also relieved that it wasn't an even more embarrassing experience for you? I hope she never reads this. And I hope you one day get over yourself.


Wow, that move theater must have been full as I assume that all the people commenting here must have been at the movie a saw the incident.

I've read several articles on the shooting and I still can't piece together what happened beyond the obvious that Reeves shot Oulson. Was Oulson standing up towering over a sitting Reeves? Was Oulson threatening Reeves? Is Reeves mentally unstable?

The texting may have been the catalyst but none of you know what actually happened in the theater that caused Reeves to shoot Oulson.

So stop whining and call your legislators and local police and demand that the police enforce the gun laws that are already on the books and most of all stop blaming guns for our lack of ability to take responsibility for our own actions.

For full disclosure I am a gun owner and have a concealed carry license in the state that I live.


It's about both, and includes the sorry state of narcissism and entitlement that pervades every aspect of our society. From the classroom to the road where people text while flinging 4000 pounds of metal at each other, to almost every other aspect of society individual freedom has come to mean entitlement and narcissism. It needs to stop. This is an extreme symptoms, but only in terms of degree.

Tom Wilson

This is a horrible article. How can you even focus on someone texting when the real problem is someone resorting to killing a man over texting? How is at all possible that an 'argument' of this nature resorted to any form of violence, let alone someone being killed?

This is precisely what is wrong with American society, your affliction for violence and how desensitized you have become to it.

Paul Potthast

Sorry Sam, it is a tragedy, but the gun didn't shoot itself and kill Mr. Oulson. Had the weapon been a knife and Mr. Oulson was stabbed, would you have put as much emphasis of the blame on the knife? That's right, you wouldn't have done so. Perhaps a harder look on the individual in question (Mr. Reeves) is necessary.


Who brings a handgun to a theatre anyways?


Very well written article. as for the comment trying to justify the man who fired the shot, not so much.


@PHILLIP – how is it justified that a 71 year old senior citizen should be expected to have to "go to blows" with some athletic individual, half his age, in order to get the peace and order he is entitled to? In your world, I suppose grandpa's and grandma's are going to have to either handle their own fist fights, or just accept whatever disservice is dealt to them?

Non-Speaking Extra #3

Real deep piece there, Sammy.

Irr-Regardless, no matter which side of the fence you land on this story, one is for for damn sure: Florida needs to be roped off on it's own.


False dichotomy as a rhetorical device seems to work just as well for blues as it does for reds.

Reeves is to blame, not anyone's phone, not even the bad old gun. If we need an abstract to argue over, why not the vicious culture of unrestrained violence among police officers? If the gun factors into Reeve's ugly murder, doesn't his time as a cop have some kind of rhetorical weight, as well?

Lots and lots of people – the vast majority of them – who own guns don't engage in this kind of behavior ever. Statistically, cops and ex-cops do.

The argument for gun control would be more responsible and effective if it didn't rely so often on emotionalism, editorial, anecdote and cherry-picking. In this era, I find any argument meant to abrogate the freedom of individual persons to be ill-considered at the *very* best, Shakespeare-level best.

This ain't it. Stop co-opting ugly tragedies to sell a false dichotomy aimed at concentrating firearms in the hands of *police officers*, please and thank you.


The truth is, we have not yet heard both sides of the story. In their haste to paint the story to fit their agenda, the media frequently does not get the story straight, overlooking key facts in favor of emotional impact, and that quickly affects accurate public perception.
Consider the facts:
1. The shooter was 71 years old, not just any former Barny Fife, but a retired police captain, with notable law enforcement leadership – certainly someone trained to understand self-defense laws and the necessary conditions for legal use of lethal force.
2. Under typical self defense laws, when a person initiates a physical confrontation, they do so at the risk that the assaulted person may respond to defend himself/herself. If the other person thinks that they are at risk of imminent physical harm, they may do so with lethal force. At this point we have not been presented evidence as to WHO started the physical confrontation that caused popcorn to become "thrown", or what its magnitude was. Who started a verbal confrontation is not the issue. If witnesses and/or evidence proves the 71 year old shooter started the physical confrontation, or if no real physical contact or imminent threat occurred, the shooter will likely be convicted. The shooter did make a statement that he was struck in the face in some way. Witnesses will probably be used to support or disprove that, and clarify who initiated the physical confrontation.
3. Determining whether or not the shooter felt legitimately threatened could examine the behaviors leading up to the shooting. Irrational behavior leading up to initiation of physical confrontation reasonably tends to increase one's fear of harm. Prior to the physical confrontation, the shooter DID respond to the annoyance rationally; he avoided direct confrontation by attempting to get theater personnel to intervene. I am sure that the defense will point that is was irrational for the supposed victim to have been so insistent on continuing to text – despite theater warning against it – bothering even more patrons with an argument, rather than simply complying or stepping outside the theater to continue.
3. At the moment of the shooting, available information indicates the supposed victim was standing, turned around, facing the shooter in an escalation of irrational, direct confrontation. His wife's hand was across this chest. The defense will likely seek to show that this motion was to restrain him from physical confrontation rather than to block an anticipated gunshot.
4. The supposed victim was a tall, youthful, robust individual – clearly, in a physical altercation, more of a perceived threat to a 71 year old senior citizen than the other way around.


Thank you Sam for illustrating your points with a personal anecdote. I'm sure admitting all that doesn't feel all that great, much less having done it, but it's not like anyone would have known except you and a dozen people, so your openness is appreciated.

As to your thesis, I agree that this ceased being a story about texting when a man got shot and died, but the texting is an example of the slow burn towards a total abandonment of the social contract. The idea that "only I matter" is played out on Wall Street, social media, politics, and public spaces more openly, without understanding its impact at a micro and macro level. The retiree with the gun exhibited the same behavior, he is entirely in the wrong for over escalating the situation, and he should spend his remaining retired days in a cell.

However, while the gun in this micro situation is a problem, the lack of respect for the social contract is the macro problem. It's the problem that lingers long after this story becomes forgotten.

Having visited the theatres a fair amount in the run up to awards season, I've had to make certain decisions about how to react to cell usage. I agree that usage during the 20-plus minutes of previews is vaguely acceptable, I've even been guilty of needing to forward some messages after arriving to them late. Once the movie you paid to see starts, vs. the trailers you didn't, my phone always gets turned off, if I didn't do so prior to buying my ticket. I've also stopped tapping shoulders in front of me if that phone glows because someone is just checking statuses or emails during the feature. I'm in a large darkened auditorium and I can face forward – for the hassle of being annoyed or distracted further, I let that go.

If it's happening in my row, near me, as it did when some fossil got his Shazam out at every damned song in American Hustle, I say something loud enough so that the message is received not just by him, but anyone else using a device or talking. Having had enough, I finally blurted out "Can you just buy the soundtrack and spare the rest of us?" It only sort of worked, he turned the phone away from me when he more sparingly continued, which again speaks to how we've now trained and engrained selfishness into people at all ages and levels of our society. My own outburst likely disturbed those blissfully unaware of it all, and so I indict myself too in that anger you pointed out, being its not just a male problem, and my own comments about "only I matter." But then again, I would have been silent throughout if someone else's rudeness hadn't been so obvious, which in the case of movie texting/talking, is likely one major reason why film attendance is plummeting and why my Netflix is busier than ever.


Sam, I couldn't agree more. Well said. Some of the commenters would do well to spend a moment or two engaging in such candid self-reflection.

How in the world is this about texting when the father of a three-year-old was shot and killed and his wife injured trying to jump in front of the bullet? A beloved husband and father is dead. Horrible, and utterly senseless. Let's turn to the real topic here – what everyday humans are capable of when they have ready and unfettered access to such powerful deadly weapons.


This Chad guy did not deserve to die. I have been in countless situations where I'm in a movie theater and someone decided to whip out their cell phone to text or surf the net. Instead of telling the moron what to do, I just got up and moved to a quieter and darker area of the theater. This lone ranger asshole who killed Chad probably would have killed someone else under similar circumstances. Sadly, this story isn't going to change anything. People will still go to the theater, sit right down next to someone like me, and text/surf the net. This is the society we live in and it's up to us to be bigger than these texting fools and just move to another seat.


I cannot see how texting is a valid reason for a human being to kill another human being. But it so happens that we do live in a society where this happens, which is shameful.
It appalls me to see people commenting here things like "Maybe he should have put away his g#ddamn phone" and basically setting blame on the victim.

I was in the movie theatre the other day and there was a girl to my right who would be no more than 13y-o, accompanied by an old lady, which seemed to be family. The lights were still on and some advertising was on the screen and the girl was texting (or using the phone in a similar manner). An adult man who was sitting behind me reached down and poked the girl in the arm and commanded in an agressive way that she turned off her phone immediately.
The girl had no reaction at first and embarrassed she put down the phone. The old lady with her did not like the way the man approached the kid and said he shouldn't have been rude. Again, the man replied agressively, and continue to yell at the lady, to the point that my husband went out to get someone, because he felt like standing up for the lady, but he also was afraid the man was so angry he'd just start a fight right there.

We went to the movies to watch Walt Disney's Frosen and I witnessed an adult man being very agressive towards a kid and an elderly woman merely because the kid was using the phone. Is that acceptable behaviuor? I don't think so.


This seems like such a minor point to bring up given the tragic (and absurd) nature of the situation, but no one cuts Oulson any slack for texting during the previews. Everything about going to the movies is expensive, and the audience still has to watch commercials before getting what they paid for. Who gives a shit if someone texts during the commercials?


Ushers in the theater. Call buttons in the theater for a manager. Why are these things not in place?


This is one of those issues that agitates me to no end. On one side, you have those who acknowledge that the man who was killed could have simply put his phone away against those who feel that Reeves' actions were unnecessary and completely unjustified. Anyone who makes the argument that there ought to be some type of repercussions to the mis-etiquette of texting during movies will meet the "but did he deserve to die?" argument.
Well, of course not, BUT maybe – just maybe – we're approaching that point in history where people become more conscious of their use of technology due to these types of incidents.
I've read of a woman who took a selfie to intentionally capture (over her shoulder) a man who was attempting to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge.
Not saying that she should've been killed either, but there has to be a way to help some people understand their self-centric use of technology is unacceptable.
I shared the story because I thought it served as a reminder of that. Albeit an extreme consequence, I think the message is clear.
OAN, I liked the very firm nod to stricter gun control. If you subtract the gun, this would've ended with two men going to blows, at most.

Darryl Retchison

Damn. These comments are depressing.


The guy looks like a douche and acted like a douche. The cop simply exercised his right to bear arms and defend himself. People pay good money to see a movie not to watch someone text. So thanks for coming out.


Sorry – one detail – "texting his 3-year-old?" How does that work?


Maybe he should have put away his g#ddamn phone. Sorry, but as a film director nothing pisses me off more than someone disturbing others by their rude behavior in a theatrical screening. Hundreds of people worked on the film that you're interrupting. The world does NOT revolve around you. Want to text or talk? Take it outside.

One exception: People that work in emergency services/national security that have to be "on call" should be allowed to leave their phones on vibrate during a screening. Doctors, nurses, people that work for the President, etc. But even then, if it rings, TAKE IT OUTSIDE.

Ariel Carreira

Mientras las leyes sigan permitiendo que ciudadanos estadounidenses porten armas, seguirán cometiéndose asesinatos. Las armas solo sirven para matar, los que dicen que son para defenderse o para hacer deportes, racionalizan el problema. Pero bueno, EE.UU. es un país que construyó un imperio en base a las armas. Difícil que lo puedan cambiar, ya que su economía está fuertemente basada en su fabricación. La única solución es un cambio de paradigma, digamos, cultural. No lo veo posible en un futuro cercano. Yo lo que lamento es que las únicas muertes que sufran son las de compatriotas estadounidenses, cuando en realidad matan gente (y muchísima) en todo el mundo. Saludos desde Argentina.


If Chad Oulson had the most elementary manners, none of this would have happened.

Less Lee Moore

Thank you for writing this. I appreciate the way that you don't resort to self-righteousness like so many others would, but instead admit your own failings as a way to illustrate the heart of the problem. This is a very moving article.

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