Family defends shooting victim
They say they can't believe stalking, shooting scenario
BY DAN HINKEL
HAMMOND | Ryan Lee Bergner was a "gentle" and "kind" man, and his family "can't even believe" he would break into a woman's house and try to hurt her, his sister-in-law said Wednesday night.
"It's just so shocking for such a gentle person to die in such a violent way," said Becky Bergner, who is married to Ryan Lee Bergner's brother.
"He did not go there that evening to hurt her, as far as the Ryan that we know."
Bergner's family doubts the version of Bergner's final minutes told by the woman who shot him to death Monday night, Becky Bergner said. Family members hope the investigation continues, she said.
Police have said they forwarded their reports to Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter. Carter could pursue charges against the woman or decline to seek charges, essentially finding the shooting a justifiable homicide.
The 51-year-old woman told police she heard Bergner break a window at her house in the 6900 block of Tennessee Avenue in Hammond's Hessville neighborhood. She called 911 and an operator told her to lock herself in her bedroom. She ran upstairs, grabbed a 9 mm pistol given to her by a friend earlier that day and hid in the closet, she said. When he opened the closet door and moved toward her, she fired three times, she said. He choked her before he lost his strength, she said.
Officers found Bergner, 41, wearing black leather gloves, sprawled out in the bedroom. Bergner, of the 3000 block of Crane Place in Hammond, was pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m. Monday at a local hospital.
The woman previously reported Bergner to police for allegedly trying to kick in her door, bothering her at work and possibly slashing her vehicle's tires.
Bergner's family is "having a hard time processing that or believing it," Becky Bergner said.
"Ryan was a very, very kind person, a very giving person," she said.
The woman who shot Bergner said Tuesday afternoon she went on one date with Bergner. She said she "didn't want anything to do with him" because of "his temper."
Bergner and the woman were more involved than the woman said, Becky Bergner said.
Bergner's family members met the woman, Becky Bergner said. The woman came to Bergner's father's funeral as Bergner's "girlfriend" a few months ago, Becky Bergner said. The woman was "not a fake girlfriend," Becky Bergner said.
"They were dating. There was a relationship there," she said. "He was very fond of her."
He told family they recently broke up, but were planning to remain friends, Becky Bergner said.
The woman who shot Ryan Lee Bergner did not answer phone calls Wednesday night.
If Ryan Lee Bergner had any diagnosed mental illnesses or substance abuse problems, Becky Bergner did not know of them, she said. Ryan Lee Bergner graduated from George Rogers Clark High School in Hammond, Becky Bergner said. He worked at a local American Legion post. He was divorced from a first wife