Florida man shot and killed son-in-law who was trying to surprise him, sheriff says

Colin Warren-Hicks, Pensacola News Journal

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Florida man will not face charges after authorities said he accidentally shot and killed his son-in-law who had just flown to the U.S. from Norway as a birthday surprise.

The tragic case of mistaken identity occurred around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at a home in Gulf Breeze, said Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson at a Thursday press conference.

Johnson said that Richard Dennis, 61, of Gulf Breeze shot and killed 37-year-old Christopher Bergan, who was married to Dennis' daughter. Bergan had flown from Norway to Florida to surprise his father-in-law for his birthday, the sheriff said.

Earlier that evening, Dennis and another relative got into an argument after the relative came by the home and banged on the front door, according to police.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson talks at a press conference Thursday, Oct., 3, 2019, about a shooting in Gulf Breeze earlier in the week. The sheriff said a Gulf Breeze man shot and killed his son-in-law in a case of mistaken identity.

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When Bergan later arrived at the home to surprise Dennis, he banged on the back door without announcing himself. But Dennis thought Bergan was the relative with whom he had previously argued and opened his door while armed.

The sheriff said that Bergan jumped out of the bushes as a surprise, and Dennis then fired one round from a .380 semi-automatic firearm and struck Bergan in the heart, instantly killing him, according to Johnson.

Dennis will not be charged in the incident, said Assistant State Attorney Amber Rowland.

"I’m not going to second guess Mr. Dennis for what he did. Here he is, he had just had a confrontation at the front of his house," said the sheriff. "Couple hours later, someone is banging on his back door, and it’s a fenced yard.

"And then someone jumps out of the bushes,” Johnson said. "You can’t really say anything against Mr. Dennis for doing what he did."

Johnson urged people to pray for Dennis and his family.


This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Florida man shot and killed son-in-law in case of mistaken identity