Florida Man Shoots Son-in-Law as He Jumps out of Bushes in Birthday Surprise

October 7, 2019 Updated: October 7, 2019

A Florida man fatally shot a man who jumped out of the bushes when investigating the sound of banging on his back door late one night, only to find out it was his son-in-law.

Christopher Bergan, 37, had secretly traveled from Norway to visit his family in Florida to give his father-in-law, Richard Dennis, 61 a birthday surprise.

According to Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson, after landing on Oct. 2, Dennis headed to the house in Gulf Breeze, Florida, where he arrived around 11:30 p.m.

Unknown to Bergan, however, Dennis had already had a confrontation earlier in the evening with a relative who had hammered on the front door.

The house in Gulf Breeze, Florida, where a father-in-law accidentally shot his son-in-law on Oct. 2, 2019. (Screenshot/Google maps)

Dennis grabbed his handgun and went to investigate the sound of Bergan banging on the back door, Johnson told reporters on Oct 4.

When Bergan jumped out with a growling sound, Dennis who “was totally startled,” shot Bergan with a single bullet through the heart.

On Oct. 4, Amber Roland, an attorney with the State Attorney’s Office, said based on the police investigation she “determined that this was simply a tragic accident.”

“I mean, here he is, he just had a confrontation at the front of his house,” Johnson said. “A couple of hours later, someone else is banging on his backdoor. It’s a fenced yard, somebody jumps out of his bushes… You can’t really say anything against Mr. Dennis for doing what he did. I think it was just a horrible accident that should never have happened.”

No charges will be filed against a man who shot and killed his son-in-law during a birthday surprise gone wrong. Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson addresses reporters in Santa Rosa, Florida, Oct. 3. (Photo: Screenshot/Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office)

The family had quickly called 911 after Dennis released who he had shot, pressing towels to his chest to try to stop the bleeding, according to authorities. But it was too late. According to investigators, the bullet had killed him instantly.

Neighbor Patty Munzell described Dennis as “a kind man,” to Oxygen.com. He has “lost a best friend,” she said.

“I think that it will take a long time for the family to heal,” Munzell said, “if ever.”

“I’ll tell you this much,” said Johnson. “Anybody who’s religious out there, you need to pray for this family because this is — I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Johnson said during a news conference. “I really can’t. It’s horrible.”

Bergan had lived in Florida for years before returning to his native Norway with his wife.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey
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