A tragic case of mistaken identity has changed a family forever.
When Christopher Bergan flew from Norway to Gulf Breeze, Florida, he was hoping to surprise his father-in-law, Richard Dennis, for his 61st birthday.
But when Bergan, 37, startled Dennis by jumping out of some bushes in his backyard upon his arrival, Dennis shot and killed his son-in-law, thinking he was an intruder.
The tragedy unfolded on Tuesday, October 1, when Bergan, who is married to Dennis’ daughter — who is also a resident of Norway — landed in Florida around 11 p.m. and headed straight to his father-in-law’s house, authorities said. Bergan had reportedly lived in Florida before returning to Norway.
About two hours before Bergan arrived at Dennis’ house, another relative had arrived at Dennis’ home and banged on the front door, which startled Dennis, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said at a press conference Thursday.
The unnamed family member and Dennis got into a “verbal altercation,” and Dennis “[ran] the person off,” Johnson said.
“At 11:30, Mr. Dennis hears the same type of banging on the back door that 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. Mr. Dennis gives off one round, striking Mr. Bergan, killing him instantly.”