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Florida movie theater shooter wins release from jail on bond

By Letitia Stein

TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) - A retired Florida police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a fellow moviegoer during a dispute over texting is expected to go home on Friday night after being released from jail on bond, his lawyer said.

Bail was set at $150,000 for Curtis Reeves, 71, who has been in jail without bond since the January shooting at a Tampa-area movie theater. A judge ordered Reeves under house arrest, and he is only to leave home to shop for groceries, seek medical care or attend religious services.

"Mr. Reeves did nothing but use the law of self-defense in order to preserve his own life," his lawyer, Richard Escobar, told reporters. "He's coming home in order to resume his life and to assist us in preparing his defense."

As a condition of his bond, Reeves must surrender any personal firearms.

The case received wide attention, raising concerns about bearing arms in public, cell phone use and the potential application of Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.

Reeves is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Chad Oulson, 43, after authorities say the two men got into an argument about cell phone texting during the previews for a matinee showing of the war film "Lone Survivor."

Reeves told law enforcement officers that he feared being attacked when he fired his semiautomatic handgun after Oulson stood up and struck him in the face with an unknown object. Witnesses said Oulson, who was texting his toddler's babysitter, had thrown popcorn.

In a press conference, Reeves' lawyer said Florida laws protect seniors over the age of 65 from potentially deadly blows to the head, suggesting a cell phone may have been thrown at Reeves.

Pasco County Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa was holding Reeves in jail without bond, but an appeals court issued a ruling on Friday morning that he may set bail. A trial is expected to be scheduled for early next year.

TJ Grimaldi, a lawyer for Oulson's wife, decried the ruling. "This man, who ripped a family apart and tore them to pieces, is now able to be home in his own bed, see his family, see his son and his grandkids," Grimaldi told reporters, calling Reeves a danger to the public.

(Editing by Grant McCool)

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