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Startled Florida Man Fatally Shoots Son-In-Law in Surprise Encounter

Richard Dennis was startled by the sound of banging at his backdoor, and probably quite afraid. But he had no idea that his fear would end up costing the life of an innocent family relative. Dennis’ son-in-law Christopher Bergan was on the other side of the door. As a prank, he’d flown from his native Norway to visit Dennis for his 62nd birthday, which was the following day. When Dennis came to the door, Bergan jumped out from the bushes to surprise him. Gun in hand, Dennis opened fire, shooting the man before he realized his identity.

According to Santa Rosa County sheriff Bob Johnson, the bullet hit Bergan “straight in the heart,” killing him instantly. In a news conference, Johnson acknowledged the shooting was an accident, and offered sympathy. Johnson said, “Anybody who's religious out there, you need to pray for this family because this is--I can't imagine what they're going through. I really can't. It's horrible.”

Dennis attempted to save Bergan’s life by calling 911 and compressing the wound with towels, but it was unsuccessful. Eventually, Dennis explained to authorities that earlier that same evening, he’d chased away a different family relative after an altercation at the same location. As a result of the coincidence, Dennis was not charged in the shooting. But Bergan, who’d previously lived in Florida, was considered a close friend.

Potential Preaching Angles: When we act in fear and haste, we’re likely to experience heartache and ruin. Being afraid is often a reasonable response, but in our decision making, we cannot let fear drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Source: Brittany Shammas, “A man jumped from the bushes for a birthday surprise. His startled father-in-law fatally shot him.” Washington Post (10-5-19)

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