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Police: Cell phone argument in movie theater sparks fatal shooting

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jan 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-13 21:54:25-05

(CNN) — One man was shot dead after an argument over a cell phone conversation at a movie theater Monday afternoon in Wesley Chapel, Florida, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told CNN.

The victim and a woman who was also shot were sitting in a row in front of another couple.

“There was an altercation because the victim was using his cell phone. He was texting. He was making a lot of noise,” Nocco said. “This led to a verbal altercation, the verbal altercation escalated.”

The suspect pulled out a handgun and shot the man and the woman, who has non-life threatening injuries, with him. The sheriff said it was unclear if the shooter meant to hit the woman.

Nocco said there was no indication that the two couples involved knew each other.

A witness said the shooting occurred during the previews to the movie. Charles Cummings told reporters that the man who was shot sat two seats from his son. The man who was upset by the cell phone user argued with the victim then got up and left the theater for a brief time.

“He came back very irritated,” Cummings said, who said he thought the shooter went to look for a theater manager.

The two men started arguing again and the cell phone user told the other man he was just texting his daughter. A few silent seconds elapsed and the argument started again. Cummings said the victim arose from his seat and talked to the shooter.

“Their voices started going up. There seems to almost be a confrontation,” Cummings said. “Somebody throws popcorn; I’m not sure who threw it. And then bang, he was shot.”

The victim staggered over and fell on Cummings and his son. A nurse who was in the theater performed CPR on the victim until the paramedics arrived, said Cummings, who like his son, had spatters of blood on his clothes.

A release from the sheriff’s department said the suspected shooter was at the movie “Lone Survivor” with his wife.

A bystander detained the suspect until deputies arrived, the statement said.

The shooting happened at about 1:30 p.m. inside one of the theaters at the Grove 16 complex, sheriff’s spokeswoman Melanie Snow said.

“This was an isolated altercation between two guests that escalated unexpectedly. The safety, security and comfort of our guests and team members are always our top priorities, and we are truly heartbroken by this incident,” Cobb Theatres, which operates the Grove complex, said in a written statement.

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