Tuesday marks six months since a local father was gunned down in Jacksonville Beach.
Jared Bridegan, 33, was shot several times at close range as his 2 1/2-year-old-year-old daughter was in the backseat of his SUV around 8 p.m. Feb. 16 near the Sanctuary neighborhood in south Jacksonville Beach.
The unsolved murder case and the question of “why” still haunts the Jacksonville Beach community and Bridegan’s family.
“This was such a heinous crime,” Bridegan’s older brother, Adam, said. “I mean, the amount of times he was shot, just to ensure that he was dead, that he wasn’t going to be able to recover, and all of us in our family are just devastated.”
Adam Bridegan spoke with News4JAX about the nightmare for his family.
“To be truly candid with you, our family is broken,” he said.
Adam Bridegan describes the pain of losing his younger brother a wound that just won’t heal.
“My children continue to have nightmares. I think that something is going to happen to myself or to the rest of the family,” he said. “We, kind of, live in this constant fear that we’re not going to get answers or that something terrible could happen to one of us, as well.”
Wondering who killed her husband keeps Jared Bridegan’s widow, Kirsten, up at night.
“I mean, I have my thoughts but those aren’t important,” she told News4JAX. “What is important is the detectives finding evidence and finding clear answers to who did this.”
Jared Bridegan was a beloved father, husband, son, brother and uncle. He grew up in North Carolina before moving to Jacksonville Beach. He went to high school at Douglas Anderson and was raising his family in St. Johns County. While he was a successful software manager at Microsoft, his brother said family was everything.
“He was a man of faith. That’s what he would want people to feel about him — how much he loved his faith, how much he loved his family,” Adam Bridegan said. “We will let law enforcement handle all of those details, but for us as a family, it’s important for us to carry on his legacy.”
Sgt. Tonya Tator, with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department, has confidence an arrest will be made.
“There’s a good chance, a good, good chance,” Tator said during a sit-down interview with News4JAX. “Maybe not now, maybe not next week, but I feel confident that eventually, we will find the person or persons responsible for this.”
Tator has been involved with the case since the night Jared Bridegan was killed. Good Samaritans took his toddler daughter Bexley from the back seat, and she reunited with her mother at the police station. Tator was there with them.
“You’re looking at someone that just found out their entire life was turned upside, down, and there’s not anything you can do for them but be right there and assure them we will do everything in our power to find out who is responsible,” Tator said.
The murder of Jared Bridegan has gotten national attention, as police believe it was a planned and targeted attack. Detectives suspect someone set up Jared Bridegan, who had just dropped his two older children off at their mother’s home in Jacksonville Beach and was returning home to St. Johns County on the night of the deadly shooting. According to detectives, he driving along a dark stretch in between the Sanctuary neighborhood and J. Turner Butler Boulevard when he stopped because of a tire in the road, and as he stepped out, someone ambushed him and shot him multiple times. Detectives believe the tire was likely planted in the road.
Tator said it looks like someone specifically set out to kill Jared Bridegan.
“That’s what evidence is leading us to believe,” she said.
Investigators processed the tire, sent bullet casings to a ballistics lab and are looking for a 2004 to 2008 blue Ford F-150 pickup truck seen in the area around 8 p.m. — when the shooting happened.
“All I can say is there is a lot of forensic evidence we’re going through. I can’t get specific,” Tator said. “We’re looking at every piece of evidence.”
Detectives are looking at all possibilities and haven’t publicly identified any suspects or people of interest. They aren’t ruling out anyone. Investigators are looking at his past history, the route he took and the fact he just dropped his two older children off at their mother’s house up the road.
“I believe that accountability and justice are absolutely coming,” Adam Bridegan said. “I really do. I have faith. After talking to those behind the scenes that are working so hard, the sacrifices that they are making, I absolutely believe that we will have justice.”
New information is still coming in. First Coast Crime Stoppers has gotten a total of 74 tips so far, with police looking at each one.
“Of course, we want an arrest,” Tator said. “We’d like to do it sooner, but we’ve got to do it the right way.”
Meanwhile, Jared Bridegan’s family is anxiously waiting for an answer.
“I continue to ask for prayers — not even for us but for the detectives, that they will find what they need to catch the people behind this. We pray for them every single day, and more prayers can never hurt,” Kirsten Bridegan said.
There’s now a $55,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution in the killing. First Coast Crime Stoppers is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Much of that money was raised privately by the Bridegan family. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, is offering an additional $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477). Tipsters may remain anonymous. To submit a tip to ATF, call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (283-8477).