Usually when we say “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” we are sarcastically referring to a criminal or person engaged in malicious activity getting their comeuppance somewhat instantly.

Sometimes, however, good people play stupid games as well and they prizes they win are tragic.

Florida man fatally shoots son-in-law who was trying to surprise him for his birthday
The incident was “a horrible accident that should have never happened,” the Santa Rosa County sheriff said.

A Florida man who shot and killed his son-in-law who jumped out of a bush to surprise him for his birthday will not face criminal charges, authorities said.

Christopher Bergan, 37, had arrived in Florida from Norway on Tuesday night to surprise his wife’s father, Richard Dennis, 61, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said at a news conference Thursday.

The sheriff called the shooting “totally accidental,” saying it was preceded by an unrelated incident at about 9:30 p.m. that night when a relative banged on Dennis’ front door. The banging startled Dennis, who went outside and ran the person off, the sheriff said.

About two hours later, Bergan arrived at the home in Gulf Breeze outside of Pensacola to surprise his father-in-law, according to the sheriff.

“At 11:30, Mr. Dennis hears the same type of banging on the back door that he heard on the front door earlier,” the sheriff said. “So he turns on the back porch light, he steps out and Mr. Bergan jumps out of the shadows, scaring Mr. Dennis.”

Bergan made a growling sound when he jumped out of the bushes, the sheriff said, citing a police report.

Dennis fired one round and struck Bergan, killing him instantly, according to the sheriff.

“Our investigation has revealed that this was totally accidental, it was a really sad occurrence, and that no charges are warranted in this case,” Sheriff Johnson said.

After the shots were fired, Dennis immediately called 911 and started first aid, the sheriff said, adding that when deputies arrived to the scene, there were towels on Bergan and attempts had been made to stop the bleeding.

The incident was “a horrible accident that should have never happened,” Johnson said. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” he said of the family.

This is just horrible.

The son-in-law clearly thought that he was playing a joke on his father-in-law, but in the United States, especially a state like Florida (because of the number of gun owners) banging on the back door and then jumping out of the bushes is just stupid.

Maybe, the son-in-law being from Norway didn’t think that the homeowner would check out what goes bump in the night at 11:30 PM armed with a pistol, but in the US, that is common.

Yes, I am aware of the 4th rule of gun safetyBe certain of your target, your line of fire, and what lies beyond your target.”  But this situation, had it been a home invader, not the son-in-law would have been a textbook quick reaction self-defense shoot.

It’s especially sad that the father-in-law did try to save his son-in-law’s life with first aid and failed.

The only slightly silver lining to this is that the police are not charging the father-in-law because everything pointed to it being an otherwise “good” (lawful) shoot.

I like pranks as much as the next person, but this kind of prank is stupid.

I have a feeling Miguel might want to follow this post up with something about the benefits of security cameras and checking on who is banning on your door close to midnight from safety over the WiFi.

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By J. Kb

13 thoughts on “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes – tragedy in Florida edition”
  1. “Had it been a home invader” but it wasn’t. Instead, an innocent person is dead because the home owner failed at PID and decided he wanted to get his gun off instead of properly identifying the target.

    The only person, and the ONLY person who deserves any blame is the idiot behind the trigger. The mere suggestion that the victim has any fault here is repulsive.

  2. Uuuummmm. How much time do YOU take “Caleb” when someone jumps out of the bushes at you??? You have less than 1 second to identify friend or foe in poor lighting. Yes it is a tragedy , however the blame does NOT lie only with the shooter. Cameras, good lights pointing AWAY from the house AND a good bright flashlight.

    1. Proper exterior lighting, cameras, having a WML and knowing how to use it, not opening the door when something suspicious is happening – all of these would have prevented this death.

      And all of those are the fault of the shooter. He failed to positively ID his threat despite having many options to do that. He’s the only one to blame for the death here. I understand – poorly trained, trigger happy assclowns will want to defend this guy, because they’re just like him. But that fact, and it is a hard fact – he pulled the trigger at something he hadn’t positively ID’d as a threat. He failed. Period.

      1. the only ‘assclown’ in this is the pre-pubescent name caller who goes by the name “Caleb”. Home invasions are real. Lethal attacks are real. An attack with a bladed instrument within close proximity of the target will take less than two seconds. This is a terrible tragedy, and it could have been avoided if the son-in-law had simply knocked and waited at the front door, The surprise would have been equally good and would have ended in a happy and special time. If “Caleb” wishes to test his theory about instantaneous target identification, I would invite him to demonstrate it in any place by duplicating this scenario – knocking on a door late at night, hiding in bushes, then growling and leaping out of the bushes toward whoever answers the door. His next of kin can tell us all how his experiment turned out.

        1. We can play what if and Monday morning quarterback all we want. In this scenario, the home owner goofed hard. A powerful weapon mounted lights and a simple verbal command (who’s out there? I have a gun) would have done more than your wild west shooting justification.

          1. Thats my point too. The home owner is not free of blame. Once he went outside it was all on him. Not trying to “what if”, use this as a teachable moment.

          1. Absolutely no one should ever rape a woman. Ever. That is an absolute statement.

            I will also teach my daughter not to drink to excess outside her home or allow herself to get into compromising situations.

            It’s not entirely the victim’s fault, but as we learn in accident reconstruction accidents happen when there are multiple failures.

            One of those failures, the one from which all other propagated, was doing something stupid. The victim owns that.

    2. Why go outside at all? What good thing can come out of leaving the safety of one’s home to venture through a fatal funnel that gives the initiative to any potential home invader that you don’t know who or where they are at?

      To paraphrase the movie ‘Ronin’, “why do they want you to go out there? If it’s a come-on, they’re shooting fish in a barrel.”

      By going outside, you are far behind the action/reaction curve.

  3. Going outside alone when one thinks there is a threat is not a sound tactic.

    First, it is tactically unsound because you are giving the advantage to any potential ambusher.

    Second, it can come across as “looking for trouble” in some jurisdictions.

    Better to call in the people with qualified immunity that you are paying for this sort of thing.

    1. “Never get out of the godam boat” is often very good advice, for home or auto.
      Sumdood trying to kick down your door or smash through your window is a pretty clear signal of bad intentions, both for yourself, and for any juries down the road.

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