'A tragic accident': Man shot dead by father-in-law after trying to surprise him for his birthday

A Norwegian man has been shot dead by his American father-in-law after jumping out of the bushes to surprise him for his birthday.

The victim, 37-year-old Christopher Bergan, had flown in from Norway to surprise his father-in-law Richard Dennis, 62, for his birthday.

The fatal mistake took place at around 11:30pm on Tuesday (local time) at the 62-year-old's property in Florida. 

Local police say Bergan sneaked into the yard, pounded on the backdoor and hid in the bushes to surprise Dennis.

Alarmed by the noise, Dennis armed himself with a gun. When he saw someone spring from the bushes outside his home, he shot the man - before realising it was his son-in-law.

Bergan, a Norwegian citizen, was killed instantly after the bullet hit him "straight in the heart", according to Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson.

Police quickly determined the shooting was accidental after arriving at the scene, 7News reports.

Authorities announced on Thursday (local time) that Dennis will not be charged, calling the shooting a "tragic accident".

Dennis told police he had an earlier "verbal altercation" with another relative after they pounded on his front door. Dennis allegedly chased the family member off, the confrontation potentially contributing to Dennis's fear on the night of the shooting, reports the Washington Post.

"He just had a confrontation at the front of his house... a couple of hours later, someone else is banging on his backdoor. It's a fenced yard, somebody jumps out of his bushes... I think it was just a horrible accident that should never have happened," Johnson told the outlet.

The American flag is currently flying at half-mast outside the Florida home in tribute to Bergan.

The accidental shooting comes a month after an Ohio mother shot her daughter in the arm when she came home early from college, mistaking her for an intruder.

Newshub / 7News

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