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The Stockton community is grieving this week following the Monday shooting death of veteran firefighter Capt. Vidal “Max” Fortuna as he responded to a blaze at a trash container behind a local business.
Meanwhile, the family of the man suspected in the case has claimed that he thought someone was trying to break into their family business and alleges another break-in occurred there Monday night, just hours after the fatal shooting.
On Tuesday morning, Tre Somerville, the son of the suspect Robert Somerville, reported a break-in at his family’s food truck business located at 142 S. Aurora St., but police said there is no evidence indicating a break-in.
“I came here last night and locked everything up and I came this morning and the building had been ransacked,” Tre Somerville said.
He said his father stayed at their family business nightly and was a victim of constant attempted break-ins due to their business being surrounded by many homeless people.
“Mr. Somerville as recently as 1 week ago reinforced parts of his property to add an additional layer of security,” the Somerville family said in a statement.
Robert Somerville, 67, was arrested and booked into San Joaquin County Jail on Monday in connection with the shooting and killing of Fortuna, 47, who was a 21-year veteran of the Stockton Fire Department.
Fortuna was struck by gunfire in the area of Aurora and Washington streets while responding to a Dumpster fire. Police said they responded to the shooting at 5:02 a.m. Monday, detained Robert Somerville and found a .380-caliber handgun that is believed to be the murder weapon.
Fortuna was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Somerville’s son said he drove to the location of the shooting immediately after a family friend told him that his father was being accused of murder.
Please join me in praying for our firefighter, the family, our community, and all of our public safety personnel. https://t.co/RECvjO2FkR— Mayor Kevin J Lincoln (@kevinjlincoln) January 31, 2022
“Robert ‘Bob’ Somerville, 67, is not a violent person and is a long-standing business owner and former engineer in the Stockton community,” the family’s statement said. “It is our understanding that Mr. Somerville believed his property was being burglarized, which led to this horrific chain of tragic events.”
Stockton Firefighters Local 456 union president Mario Gardea recalled the kind of worker Fortuna was and the dedication he had to the community.
“In all the years that Max worked for our department, he never once complained. Max loved the job, he loved being a fireman,” Gardea said. “He will be deeply missed and remembered by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom also released a statement Tuesday about the fallen fire captain’s death.
“Jennifer and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Captain Fortuna’s family, friends and colleagues as we mourn this tragic loss,” the statement said. “His decades of service to the Stockton community will not be forgotten and serve as an enduring reminder of the gratitude we owe the brave men and women of our state’s fire services who always respond to the call, selflessly serving their communities in a moment of need.”
The Stockton Fire Department is receiving mutual aid assistance from partner fire agencies throughout the region to allow Fortuna’s colleagues time to receive grief counseling and to plan memorial services, a spokesperson for the city said.
Firefighters and members of the Stockton Police Department escorted the fallen firefighter Monday afternoon from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office to Casa Bonita Funeral Home in Stockton.
Fortuna leaves behind two adult children. Information about his funeral has not yet been released. A fundraising campaign in his memory on Fund the First had collected nearly $95,000 as of Wednesday morning.
Police said the investigation remains active and anyone with information regarding the shooting is asked to contact the department at 209-937-8377.
Bay City News reporter Katy St. Clair contributed to this story.