A 68-year-old man was convicted Tuesday in the shooting death of a beloved city fire captain killed while responding to a dumpster fire in downtown Stockton.
A jury found Robert Somerville guilty of second-degree murder and discharging a firearm in the killing of Stockton Fire Department Capt. Vidal “Max” Fortuna, 47. Somerville was prohibited for life from owning a gun and is required to turn over his firearms to law enforcement, according to NBC’s Sacramento affiliate KCRA. He’s set to be sentenced on April 10.
Fortuna left behind a wife and two grown children.
“He was murdered because the defendant made the choice to shoot without cause, legal justification, or concern for human life,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas in a statement.
Fortuna was shot at 4:45 a.m. on Jan. 31, 2022, while forcing entry into a commercial building exposed to heavy fire conditions, said officials for the city about 50 miles south of Sacramento.
The Somerville family said in a statement tweeted by a CBS Sacramento reporter that Somerville, a business owner, and former engineer in Stockton for over 30 years, is not violent.
The statement said he operated and lived in the warehouse near the fire and believed his business was being burglarized, “which led to this horrific chain of tragic events.” The statement said he had been a victim of attempted break-ins in an area “plagued with the highest concentration of homeless individuals.”
Fortuna was a 21-year veteran of the Stockton Fire Department and coached youth sports. He played bass in his church ministry in Modesto.
“He never missed a day and never complained about being on the job,” said Local 456 President Mario Gardea in a statement after his death.
On Feb. 8, 2022, Pastor Joel Boone opened the memorial service at a minor league baseball park to honor the faithful Christian firefighter.
“Max led by example with his life. He led as a godly husband, and he led as a godly father. He led as a godly friend. He led as a godly firefighter. He was humble, calm, strong, confident, kind, and a servant of God.
“Today we are all asking Max’s opinion about God as Max is alive in the presence of his Creator, God, right now in glory.”
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