Birthday surprise backfires: Man who flew from Norway to Florida fatally shot by father-in-law

Man fatally shot by father-in-law after trying to surprise him for his birthday

GULF BREEZE, Fla. — A man who flew from Norway to Florida to surprise his father-in-law for his birthday was fatally shot by the older man in a case of mistaken identity, authorities said.

At a news conference Thursday, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said Richard Dennis, 61, of Gulf Breeze, shot and killed Christopher Bergan, 37, the Pensacola News Journal reported. Bergan, who was married to Dennis' daughter, knocked at the back door Tuesday at 11:30 p.m.

Content Continues Below

Two hours earlier, Dennis and another one of his relatives argued after the man banged at Dennis' front door, startling him, NBC News reported. Dennis ran the man off, Johnson said at the news conference.

Bergan knocked at Dennis' back door two hours later, and Dennis, believing his other relative had returned, came to the door while armed, the News Journal reported.

Johnson said Bergan jumped out of the bushes to surprise Dennis, who fired a round from a .380 semi-automatic weapon into his son-in-law's heart, killing him instantly.

News Conference 10-3-19

Sheriff Johnson holds a news conference revealing details about a shooting investigation in Villa Venyce Subdivision in Gulf Breeze.

Posted by Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office FL on Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dennis will not be charged, said Assistant State Attorney Amber Rowland told the News Journal.

"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," Johnson said at the news conference. "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."

Bergan made a growling sound when he jumped out of the bushes, Johnson said, citing a police report. he called the incident "accidental."

"(The) Investigation has revealed that this was totally accidental," Johnson said. "It was a really sad occurrence."