Gulf Breeze fatal shooting ruled “horrible accident”

No charges will be filed in a fatal shooting that occurred in the Villa Venyce subdivision of Gulf Breeze Tuesday.

An investigation of the incident concluded that the killing of Norwegian national Christopher Bergan, 37, by his father-in-law Richard Dennis, 61, was accidental said State Attorney’s Office representative Amber Rowland.

Rowland and Sheriff Bob Johnson shared details of the shooting with reporters Thursday during a joint news conference at the Santa Rosa County Jail.

“We determined there would be no charges filed, and this was just a tragic accident,” Rowland said.

Johnson explained the incidents occurred after an unrelated argument between Dennis and a relative at the front of his home. Johnson said Dennis heard loud banging on his front door and ran off the person at about 9:30 p.m.

Bergan arrived in the area by plane the same evening. Johnson said Bergan intended to surprise Dennis for his birthday.

At roughly 11:36 p.m., Bergan arrived at the residence on Coronado Court. Johnson said Bergan then went around to the back of the home into the fenced backyard, banged on the door and hid to surprise Dennis.

Startled by the banging, Dennis flipped on the porch light and came outside Johnson said.

“Mr. Bergan jumps out of the shadows, scaring Mr. Dennis,” Johnson said. “Mr. Dennis gets off one round, striking Mr. Bergan and killing him instantly.”

911 was immediately called, and deputies arriving to the scene said they found Dennis attempting to stop the bleeding with towels.

“There he is, he just had a confrontation at the front of his house. A couple of hours later somebody is banging on his backdoor. Someone jumps out of the bushes,” Johnson said. “I can’t really say anything against Mr. Dennis for doing what he did. I think it was just a horrible accident that never should have happened.”

He asked that the public pray for Dennis who he said expressed a lot of remorse.

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