A Florida man won’t face charges for fatally shooting his Norwegian son-in-law who jumped out and scared him during a surprise birthday visit, authorities said.
Christopher Bergan, 37, had just flown in from Norway Tuesday night to surprise Richard Dennis for his 62nd birthday when authorities said poor timing and circumstance led to a “horrible accident” at Dennis’ Gulf Breeze home.
“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,” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said at a press conference Thursday.
Roughly two hours before Bergan appeared at the home, Johnson said, Dennis had been in a verbal altercation with another relative who had been banging on his front door. That relative eventually left, only to be replaced by Bergan who delivered “the same type of banging,” this time on Dennis’ back door around 11:30 p.m., Johnson said.
Dennis, armed with a gun, opened the door and was surprised by Bergan who jumped out at him while making a noise. He was immediately shot in his chest and died instantly. Bergan had previously lived in Florida before moving back to Norway with his wife, who is Dennis’ daughter, Johnson said.
“Anybody who’s religious out there you need to pray for this family because I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Johnson said.
The incident came a little more than a month after an Ohio mother shot her 18-year-old daughter in the arm after the teen returned home early from college to surprise her. That mother was also not charged in the incident, which left her daughter briefly hospitalized.
“If you realize someone has a gun for protection and they’re not expecting you, announce yourself when you enter the home, or even if you’re getting up to get a drink of water in the middle of the night, just announce yourself,” Girard Police Chief John Norman told Youngstown station WFMJ at the time of that shooting.