Etiquette Justifies Florida Theater Shooting over Texting Dispute
Commentary Copyright © 15 January 2014 by Bob Hurt. All rights reserved.
The news media and public seem agog over the Wesley Chapel, Pasco County, Florida, killing in a movie theater over a texting dispute. Retired Tampa cop Curtis Reeves (71) shot Chad Oulson (43) in the chest. The bullet passed through Oulson's wife's chin as she tried to protect him. Chad Oulson died. The Pasco County Sheriff arrested Reeves at 1700 on the afternoon of 13 January 2014, according to this report:
"Your affiant a detective with the Pasco Sheriff's Office had the occasion to become involved in the investigation of a shooting. The victim was in the theater with the defendant sitting behind him. The witnesses advised the defendant confronted the victim about texting during the movie previews and went to advise management. When the defendant returned additional words were exchanged between the victim and the defendant and the victim turned and threw a bag of popcorn at the defendant. Witnesses advised they did not observe any punches being thrown. The defendant removed a handgun and shot the suspect in the chest. During a post Miranda Interview the defendant advised he got into a verbal argument with the victim over phone usage. The defendant advised that the victim turned and stood up sriking him in the face with an unknown object. The defendant advised that the removed a 380 semi auto handgun from his pants pocket firing one round striking the victim and that he was in fear of being attacked. The victim was transported to Florida Hospital where he died."
The altercation started because Reeves felt annoyed by the light from Oulson's phone as Oulson used it to read or write text messages in the darkened theater. Oulson ignored Reeves' entreaties to turn off the phone. Read more of the story here:
Take note of the comments to such articles. Liberal gun haters in the media have cited the incident as a basis for demanding more gun controls. For some insane reason the haters have not demanded more cell phone control.
Chad Oulson died because of intolerance of the discipline ensuing his bad cell phone etiquette. That dispute signals a plague of phone usage rudeness attaching onto the face of America like an alien turning texters into monsters. Parents stupidly allow their children to bring their phones to the dining table and to use them there for texting. They seem to reason that they should leave the kids alone because texting doesn't disturb anyone with unpleasant noise. Children, texting, merely become "seen and not heard." Young adults flout also commonsense rules of politeness when, like ignorant and self-centered children, they use phones and tablets for texting or web browsing while supposedly involved in conversation with others. They have made modern youth society into a texting generation and an abomination
I consider parents, children, and young adults DEAD WRONG in their assessment that texting in theaters or polite company has by some mysterious magic become okay or that they should forgive or excuse it. I have several reasons for this view:
- Texting distracts the texter from any surrounding conversation, making it difficult to follow any conversation at all, and impossible to follow it with any apparent interest;
- Texting resembles whispering to an unknown third party in a private conversation that excludes others physically present;
- Texting in the presence of others says "I don't care about you others or how you feel and I prefer the conversation with the person on the other end of the message;'
- Texting distracts others physically present, making them wonder why the texter chose to behave so rudely;
- Texting disturbs the concentration and focus of others physically present so that they cannot focus on the event at hand, such as a conversation or an entertainment event like a play, concert, or movie.
In other words, one becomes RUDE, IMPOLITE, and DISRESPECTFUL by texting in the presence of others physically present, and that subjects the texter to risk of discipline, ostracism, shunning, banning, and excision. Anyone who feels offended may take any action to stop the behavior or eject the rude texter from the event or gathering.
Precisely THAT happened in the movie theater.
But texting has become far worse than that. Nowadays I see people texting while driving, walking down the street, CROSSING the street, shopping in stores and browsing in malls, and walking in groups of fellow texters. Teens and adolescents seem to text most avidly of all. If schools did not forbit phone use, students would text one another in the classrooms across America while teachers struggle to impart knowledge to them.
Curtis Reeves had previously disciplined others about texting, according to news reports I watched on television. Some might call him a serial complainer/harasser. I call him a good citizen.
I believe the time has become long overdue for all people of good sense to JUST SAY NO to texting in polite society. Since this seems like common sense to me, I believe we should routinely insist that people who enter our homes or our group turn off cell phones, and eject any who refuse or who take a call without excusing themselves and leaving the room or premises so that none present can hear or see their interaction with the unknown party on the other end of the phone communication. The only exception occurs when the phone user asks permission of those present, and, so long as none object, to put the phone in loud-speaker mode so all can hear and participate in the conversation.
People should NEVER use cell phones in the movie or stage theater during preview, prelude, or performance. And people should never put up any resistance if others remind them of this point of etiquette.
Chad Oulson might have learned this point of commonsense etiquette the hard way, had he lived through the ordeal. Had he enjoyed the company of several combative friends, Curtis Reeves might have died in the confrontation.
Since Chad Oulson died because of his rudeness and ensuing resistance to discipline, he never actually learned his lesson. The rest of us will have to learn from his dearly costly lesson for him. Lest any reader misunderstand the lesson here, please allow me to recite it for one and all:
- TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE BEFORE you enter a theater, church, courtroom, Lawmen meeting, or group gathering or meeting where use of your phone might distract you or others, or become an annoyance.
- TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE BEFORE you sit at the breakfast / brunch / luncheon / dinner table in the company of others.
- DON'T ANSWER THE CELL PHONE in the company of others or put someone on hold to take another call unless it's from your spouse, your kids, or any other who might rely on you in a dire emergency. In that case, excuse yourself and leave the area to go out of earshot of the others so you can talk privately.
- Always ask the host or manager to impose discipline on a violator of cell phone etiquette and give reasonable time for the discipline to take effect before you get personally involved. This means cell phone rudeness has become a plague because so few people impose discipline on the rude. That tolerance has made them even ruder.
- Always pack heat if you plan to address a rude person about cell phone etiquette. A person who respects your right to remain undisturbed won't use a phone rudely to begin with. That means you might face violent resistance from those you discipline about etiquette breaches. And that rude person might have friends available for backup. Remember that natural resentment over racial or social differences with the rude might exacerbate the resistance. And such resistance might put you in lethal danger.
Cell phone users should realize that the confused resentment over rudeness of cell phone usage, like texting, has occurred because texting seems innocent, innocuous, and unintrusive, even though it does obtrude against others, signaling apathy, insensitivity, and disrespect. Many, in self-defense, respond by texting on their own phones. I often have witnessed groups of young people sitting around with their phones in hand, variously conversing and exclaiming or joking with one another, and then texting or talking on the phone. Perhaps that has become the new etiquette for youngsters, and it seems to have affected their parents. Now people in their 40's do it, people in their 30's do it more, people in their 20's do it a lot, and people in their teens do it virtually incessantly. Texting impolitely has become so widespread as to annoy the holy hell out of people in their 50's and older.
This has the effect of building a welling-up of resentment by seniors against texting in theaters, at the eating table, in mixed company groups, while driving, or while walking around in public. As a result, many seniors have become frustrated, impatient, and out of tolerance for texting, particularly by careless and cavalier youngsters. THAT feeling of intolerant "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" resentment of texting in the mind of Curtis Reeves. And that might have provoked him to protest against Chad Oulson's texting in the theater.
All people of common sense should feel resentment over the disrespect that texters show by texting in theaters, at the table, or in company of others. Imagine what would have happened had a dozen people around Chad Oulson shouted in unison at him to turn off the phone. Probably, he would have turned it off or left the theater, and lived to tell about it, wouldn't he? Instead, the cowards around him remained silent while Curtis Reeves did their job for them, and now he sits in jail for defending his life with a pistol.
Bottom line, I consider the killing tragic but justified. Even if a 71-year-old had the physical ability to prevail in hand-to-hand combat against a robust 43-year-old, getting into a fist fight might cause permanent injury to one who only wanted to enjoy the move free from the distraction of cell phone screen glare from a user right in front of him. No one under attack has the obligation to wait and see whether it escalates beyond control or exceeds the power of one to defend oneself.
So, I have absolutely no doubt that the jury will acquit Curtis Reeves, as it should, if his case actually goes to trial.
Note that it might have made far more sense for Curtis Reeves to have gathered his witnesses and sued Chad Oulson for disturbing his peace in the theater, and called the sheriff on him to boot, and sued the theater owners and manager for not throwing Chad Oulson out for texting. Then they'd all get to duke it out in court and we could know what the judges think of the matter.
Maybe furor over this issue will cause the Legislature will enact a law against texting at public events or in theaters where the texting could distract others. Would you consider that wise?
Respect for etiquette prevents fractious interactions. Rogues, thugs, and the unrefined never learn it, and many suffer from it. In the end, people either learn etiquette or pay the price, as the issue at hand fully testifies. Thus, etiquette fully justifies that shooting. Let us pray to God that the rude texters of America learn the right lesson from it: put away the phone out of respect for people and the consequenses of alienating them for texting in their faces.
Please distribute this commentary far and wide. Feel free to respond go my blog or by clicking on this Email-Bob-Hurt link. But don't do it using your cell phone while in a movie theater or at the eating table in the company of others. You don't want to seem RUDE, do you?