A man flew miles to make a surprise visit to his father-in-law, only to be mistaken for an intruder and getting shot and killed on Oct. 1, according to multiple reports.
Christopher Bergan, 37, was flying in from Norway to visit his father-in-law, Richard Dennis, in Gulf Breeze, Florida, in an attempt to surprise his father-in-law for his 61st birthday, PEOPLE reported. When he got to Dennis’s house at 11:30 p.m., Bergan hid in the bushes to surprise his father-in-law. However, when Bergan jumped out of the bushes, it scared Dennis, who then mistook him as an intruder and fired one round into Bergan, instantly killing the 37-year-old.
However, the accidental shooting was a result of a prior incident. Two hours before Bergan arrived, a relative of Dennis had arrived at Dennis’s front door, knocking loudly. The knocking startled Dennis, who then opened the door and confronted the relative, and the two of them got into a verbal altercation, according to a press conference held by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. Dennis managed to chase the relative away.
“At 11:30, Mr. Dennis hears the same type of banging on the back door that he heard on the front door earlier. So he turns on the back porch light, he steps out, and Mr. Bergan jumps out of the shadows, scaring Mr. Dennis. Mr. Dennis gives off one round, striking Mr. Bergan, killing him instantly,” said Bob Johnson, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff.
When Dennis realized who he had shot, he called 911, and while waiting for the authorities to arrive, the people who were there at the incident tried to administer first aid and attempted to stop the bleeding, PEOPLE reported. According to the media outlet, the friend who drove Bergan from the airport witnessed the incident.
Authorities who arrived on the scene investigated the incident and concluded that it was a result of an accident. Dennis was not charged with any crimes.
“Our investigation has revealed that this was totally accidental,” Johnson said. “It was a really sad occurrence, and that no charges are warranted in this case.”
Concerning the absence of a charge, PEOPLE reported that Johnson explained that he understood why Dennis had acted in that way, and said, “I think it’s just a horrible accident that should never have happened.”
Regardless, Johnson encouraged people to pray for the family, saying, “anybody who is religious out there, you need to pray for this family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”