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Fire Captain Shot Dead On Scene Of Dumpster Fire After Business Owner Allegedly Mistook Him For A Burglar

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA – A firefighter, husband and father is dead after being shot by a man who claims that he thought the Stockton Fire Department Captain was a burglar, even though he was in full firefighting gear operating with his truck and crew at the scene of a dumpster fire. The shooter, a food truck owner, has been arrested and charged with murder..

The tragic incident unfolded after the Stockton Fire Department was dispatched to a dumpster fire at 142 Aurora Street around 4:45 a.m. Monday. One of the firefighters on the responding truck was 47-year-old Captain Max Fortuna, a 21-year veteran of the department and married father of two.

SFD Chief Rick Edwards, speaking at a press conference, described the events that occurred just before 5 a.m. “As firefighters were extinguishing that fire, gunshots were heard, and the fire captain of Engine 2 had been struck. Firefighters quickly transitioned to provide EMS care for their fallen brother and transported him to the local hospital. I am devastated to report that fire Captain Max Fortuna has succumbed to his injuries.”

The man charged with the shooting is 67-year-old Robert Somerville. He was in possession of a .38 caliber handgun when he was arrested by Stockton Police Department officers and was incarcerated in the San Joaquin County Jail. An initial court appearance was scheduled for Wednesday.  

A statement released by his family read, “Having been a victim of constant attempted break-ins due to his business/home being located in an area plagued with the highest concentration of homeless individuals, Mr. Somerville as recently as 1 week ago reinforced parts of his property to add an additional layer of security. It is our understanding that Mr. Somerville believed his property was being burglarized, which led to this horrific chain of tragic events. We just ask that the Fortuna family and public please withhold judgment on the state of mind and intent of Mr. Somerville until all of the facts come to light.”

His son, Tre Somerville, commented, “I would like to say that, you know, my family would like to send our condolences to the Fortuna family. It’s very unfortunate what happened today, and it’s just a freak circumstance. My father does not have any prior violent history or anything like that. He’s really a community man as well.”

Stockton Police Officer Joe Silva commented, “The firefighters, they are part of our public safety family. This hits all of us hard, and this just shows the dangers of the job.”

Where do we even start on this one? We start by offering our sincere heartfelt condolences to the family and fellow firefighters of Captain Fortuna. After that, we find it hard to imagine how a man can mistake a firefighter in full turnout gear with reflective striping and lettering, in a group of similarly dressed individuals, operating near a large truck with flashing warning lights, scene lights and a flaming dumpster?

Sadly, this case is the epitome of irresponsible gun ownership and use. Mr. Somerville failed to clearly identify his target prior to pulling the trigger and firing the round that robbed a family of their husband and father and robbed a community of a faithful and selfless public servant.

His claim of defending property will be worthless in court. California law allows the use of deadly force in defense of habitation or property against one who intends, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony. Fire apparatus, with their lights, sirens, engine, and pump operating are not known for projecting an element of surprise, and firefighters dressed in fifty pounds of bulky protective gear are not known for displaying violent behavior when controlling rubbish fires, and they were not attempting to enter a dwelling, business or vehicle. This type of irresponsible gun ownership and use cannot and should not be tolerated.

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