California man convicted of gunning down Stockton fire captain responding to blaze: ‘Unfathomable tragedy’

A California business owner has been convicted of gunning down a Stockton fire official who was responding to a blaze just over a year ago, authorities announced. 

Robert Somerville, 68, was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder and intentional discharge of a firearm for the Jan. 31, 2022, death of Stockton Fire Department Captain Vidal “Max” Fortuna. He is due to be sentenced on April 10, 2023. 

Fortuna, 47, was among responders at the scene of a fire around 4:45 a.m. on Jan. 31, 2022, in the area of Aurora and Washington Streets. Firefighters, including Fortuna, were trying to enter a building “in order to prevent the fire from advancing from the trailer to the structure” when Somerville, who lived nearby, opened fire with a .380 caliber handgun, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and police said.

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Fortuna, a married father of two, could not be saved. 

San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas called Fortuna’s death “an unfathomable tragedy.” 

“He was murdered because the defendant made the choice to shoot without cause, legal justification, or concern for human life,” Freitas said. 

Somerville reportedly owned a food truck and was a longtime local business owner, who previously worked as an engineer. 

His family released a statement after the shooting, in which they described Somerville as someone who was “not a violent person.”

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They said Somerville had recently “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,” according to the statement, obtained by local affiliate FOX 40. 

“He operates his business, and resides in the warehouse that was adjacent to where the fire occurred,” the statement reportedly read. “It is our understanding that Mr. Somerville believed his property was being burglarized, which led to this horrific chain of tragic events.” 

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Fortuna boasted 21 years with the Stockton Fire Department, and spent his free time coaching kids’ baseball teams and playing bass for his local church, according to the California Fire Foundation. 

“He never missed a day and never complained about being on the job,” Local 456 President Mario Gardea said, according to the foundation. 

The community has created a fundraising page in Fortuna’s honor.

Fox News Digital’s Paul Best contributed to this report. 


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