Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

New dad who was hit by stray bullet dies month later

- By Gal Tziperman Lotan Staff writer

“He was a goofball. Just a very goofy guy, always smiling. And he loved his family, being around people.” Doria Mortensen

Brian Mortensen was elated when his wife gave birth to their first child last month. Charlotte Rose was 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and 21 inches long.

Four days later Mortensen, 32, was hit by a stray bullet while working on a fence at an apartment complex. He died of his injuries on Tuesday.

Now Charlotte will grow up without her father.

“We wanted her. He loved her very much. We tried a really long time to finally be able to have her,” Doria Mortensen said.

Mortensen was a “goofball” who loved superheroe­s, and on his wedding day in 2013 walked down the aisle wearing a Captain America boutonnier­e, his wife said.

Mortensen, a crew leader for Dave’s Fence Inc., was putting up a fence on March 18 at Magnolia Court Condominiu­ms when Jakell Ward, 21, who lived in the Orange County complex, allegedly shot at his girlfriend during a fight, deputies said.

Ward and his girlfriend, who was pregnant with their second child, had been arguing in their apartment nearby, records show. Ward allegedly told his girlfriend he was going to kill her, deputies said.

She got out of the apartment and rushed to her car.

She got into the car and saw Ward outside, pointing a .45-caliber Hi-Point pistol at her, deputies said. Ward allegedly started firing.

Bullets passed her car and hit Mortensen, striking his chest and right arm, collapsing his lung and lodging in his heart.

Ward’s girlfriend was not injured.

Ward told deputies he did shoot, but was not aiming at anyone. After the shooting he left the gun in his apartment, went back outside and saw Mortensen was hurt. He offered him $400 and a cup of water, but did not call 911, deputies said.

“It’s stupid, senseless,” Doria Mortensen said. “Whatever [Ward] was trying to do has destroyed so many lives.”

Ward was arrested the day of the shooting and is being held without bond in the Orange County Jail. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder April 8.

Orange County deputies are working with the State Attorney’s Office to upgrade the charge against Ward from attempted murder to murder, sheriff’s spokeswoma­n Jane Watrel said.

Mortensen had worked at Dave’s Fence for nine years, said Mary Hippchen, the company’s part-owner and office manager.

“He would show up on Saturday, just to clean up things and straighten the trucks, even though no one asked him to,” Hippchen said. “He wasn’t told to, he wasn’t asked to, he’d do it. Just wanting to be helpful and be the best he could be.”

His death has been difficult for his co-workers, some of whom were nearby when he was shot.

“It won’t ever be the same. But we’re all better because of knowing him, though. He truly shows what it means to be unselfish,” Hippchen said.

Brian and Doria Mortensen met when her brother introduced them. They hung out in larger groups a few times, then he asked her out. They went roller skating on their first date, she said.

“He was a goofball,” Doria Mortensen said. “Just a very goofy guy, always smiling. And he loved his family, being around people.”

They got married in December 2013 in a small ceremony in Lake County.

“I remember he had a big old smile on his face,” Doria Mortensen said. “We had written our own vows, and he filled his with superhero references.”

The couple tried to have a child for a while, but medical complicati­ons made pregnancy difficult. Finally, on March 14, Doria Mortensen gave birth.

“Actually being able to have her was a miracle on its own,” Doria Mortensen said.

When Charlotte gets older, Doria Mortensen wants to tell her about her father’s kind heart, she said.

“He was very kind, very hard-working. Very familyorie­nted. All he ever wanted was a family of his own,” Doria Mortensen said.

After the shooting, the family set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Mortensen’s recovery. The money will now go into his daughter’s college fund, his wife said.

 ?? MORTENSEN FAMILY/COURTESY ?? Brian and Doria Mortensen.
MORTENSEN FAMILY/COURTESY Brian and Doria Mortensen.

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