Curtis Reeves is a 71-year old retired police captain from Tampa, Florida. Reeve was thought to be the consummate police officer. He helped set up a SWAT team for the department. He was described a man who almost never became angry. He seemed to always be under control.
Reeves has been in jail since January 13. He was arrested by police and charged with second-degree murder. Witnesses say that Reeves had an altercation at a theater with another moviegoer over phone texting. The verbal argument escalated. Witnesses said the object of Reeve’s ire, 43-year old Chad Oulson, threw popcorn at Reeves and Reeves shot and killed him.
Friends and family of Reeves urged a judge to release him on bail. They said he was not a danger to the community. His family portrayed him as a loving father and grandfather. The wife of one of his associates said, “He’s a very honest and honorable man.”
Was Reeves’s action triggered by some subconscious conditioning he had undergone in police training? Was he operating and overreacting as a person used to being obeyed as an authority figure? Did he “snap”? We’ll probably never know.
One of Reeves’s attorneys claimed his client was defending himself. But prosecutors reported that witnesses said Oulson never touched Reeve. The penalty for second-degree murder is a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
The movie theater tragedy might seem to be an extreme example of a “good” person gone awry. However, we all need to understand that there are provocations and temptations along everyone’s path of life. No one should think he is immune.
We all need to be aware that we are all capable of being set off in a very bad direction. That knowledge should make us ever vigilant.
Pirkei Avot has a compelling statement about the frailty of man. Hillel says, “Do not trust yourself until the day you die. The fact that we’ve served God so admirably yesterday and the day before is no assurance we’ll do the same today.”
The thought is quite revealing about the realities of life.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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