No charges in shooting of accused stalker

Prosecutor says victim's action was self-defense
2008-01-10T00:00:00Z No charges in shooting of accused stalkerSTEVE ZABROSKI
Times Correspondent
nwitimes.com
January 10, 2008 12:00 am  • 

HAMMOND | A Hessville woman will not be charged in the shooting death of a man accused of breaking into her home in November and stalking her.

(Listen to the 911 call)

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said on Wednesday he was turning down any charges against the woman in the death of Ryan Lee Bergner, 41, considering her actions to be in self-defense and defense of property.

The Nov. 12 shooting of Bergner as he cornered the 51-year-old woman in an upstairs bedroom closet capped a month of escalating terror -- chronicled in a series of police reports filed by the woman -- which included break-ins, vandalism and assaults in her workplace.

They had briefly dated over the summer, but Bergner couldn't accept that she didn't want to be his girlfriend, and wouldn't take "no" for an answer, the woman said.

That fatal Monday night, she was watching television at 10:30 p.m. when she heard a window breaking, and called 911.

An audio recording of her conversation with the emergency dispatcher, from the initial break-in to her escape from the dying Bergner six minutes later, was released by Hammond police on Wednesday.

"I'm so scared," the woman said to the 911 operator, who told her to lock herself in a bedroom until police arrived.

Bergner had already broken into her house two days earlier, she reported to police, destroying a clock-radio and stealing several of her undergarments.

"I heard him turn a light on, a hallway light," she told the dispatcher as she hid in a closet, armed with a pistol a friend had given her for protection.

"What are you doing?" she can be heard asking over the sound of her bedroom door being kicked in. "Stop it! Please stop it! Just stop it!"

Gunshots can clearly be heard on the recording. She later said Bergner was on top of her in the closet, his hands around her throat, choking her.

"What are you trying to do, kill me?" the mortally wounded Bergner asked.

"Are you trying to kill me?"

Police found her in her front yard when they arrived moments later, and found Bergner, wearing black leather gloves and a brown leather jacket, lying partially in the bedroom closet with three bullet wounds to his abdomen, a 9 mm pistol on the bed nearby.

"That tape is absolutely chilling," said Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, who worked for years as a detective with the department's sex crimes division.

Miller said he is regularly asked to speak at meetings of women's organizations and support groups for victims of domestic violence, and in the future will be taking the recording along with him as an example of what can happen.

"I didn't want it to turn out like this," the woman told The Times the day after the shooting, though she declined to comment for the record on Wednesday's decision by the prosecutor's office.

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