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Man accidentally shot, killed by father-in-law after flying to Florida to surprise him

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office in Florida held a press conference on Oct. 3, which revealed details about a shooting investigation in the Villa Venyce subdivision in Gulf Breeze, Fla. Christopher Bergan jumped out of the bushes to surprise his father-in-law, Richard Dennis, on his 61st birthday. Startled, Dennis shot Bergan once in the heart, killing him instantly.

Christopher Bergan flew all the way from Norway to surprise his father-in-law but was shot and killed after the plan went awry.

Bergan crossed the pond to Gulf Breeze, Fla., as a 61st birthday gift to his wife’s father, Richard Dennis. After landing around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, he headed straight for Dennis’ house.

The 37-year-old hid behind the bushes in his father-in-law’s backyard, planning to jump out on Dennis’ arrival. Thinking he was an intruder, Dennis shot his son-in-law, killing him instantly.

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Sheriff Bob Johnson of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement about the incident, saying that prior to Bergan’s surprise, Dennis had been startled by a neighbour banging on his front door.

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In that instance, Johnson said, a small altercation occurred in which Dennis ran the neighbour off.

“At 11:30 p.m., Mr. Dennis hears the same type of banging on the back door as he heard on the front door earlier,” Johnson said. “So he turns on the back porch light, he steps out, and Mr. Bergan jumps out of the shadows, scaring Mr. Dennis.”

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“Mr. Dennis gives off one round, striking Mr. Bergan, killing him instantly.”

Dennis and Bergan’s unidentified friend, who had picked him up from the airport, called 911 and started first aid, according to police.

By the time emergency officials arrived, police say Dennis already had towels on his son-in-law’s body in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

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Johnson went on to explain that a police investigation found the shooting was “totally accidental” and “a really sad occurrence.” Because of the accidental nature of the event, police deemed no charges were warranted in this case.

“I’m not going to second-guess Mr. Dennis for doing what he did. I mean, here he is, he just had a confrontation at the front of his house. A couple hours, later somebody’s banging on his back door,” Johnson said.

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“It’s a fenced yard, and somebody jumps out of the bushes; I mean, you can’t really say anything against Mr. Dennis for doing what he did.”

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca