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Shooting of Calif. fire captain may have been ‘misunderstanding,’ says accused shooter’s son

A statement from Robert Alston Somerville’s family says a “horrific chain of events” led to the fatal shooting of Stockton Captain Vidal “Max” Fortuna


Photo/Stockton Fire Department

Erin Tracy
The Modesto Bee

STOCKTON, Calif. — The man accused of fatally shooting a Stockton Fire Department captain at the scene of a fire on Monday is scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges Wednesday.

Robert Alston Somerville, 67, was booked into San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of murder and being armed with a firearm during a felony, according to jail records.

Somerville is accused of fatally shooting Vidal “Max” Fortuna, 47, of Modesto, when he and his crew on Engine 2 arrived at the scene of a garbage bin fire on South Aurora Street.

Officials said the crew has just arrived at the scene and was extinguishing the fire when the shooting occurred around 5 a.m.

No details have been released about where Fortuna or the other members of his crew were when the shooting happened, but his fellow firefighters immediately began providing medical care to “their fallen brother,” according to Stockton Fire Chief Rick Edwards.

Fortuna was taken to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Stockton police have not released a potential motive or said whether Somerville and Fortuna knew each other.

Somerville’s son, Tre Somerville, asked people to withhold judgment until all the facts come out.

He said his dad is an engineer and longstanding businessman in Stockton.

Tre Somerville said his father has owned Capital Concessions and Manufacturing for more than ten years. “We design and build food trucks,” he said.

He said Robert Somerville lives in the warehouse he works out of, which is near the scene of the shooting. He said Robert Somerville has been the victim of multiple burglaries and believes the shooting was a misunderstanding.

“It is our understanding that Mr. Somerville believed his property was being burglarized, which led to this horrific chain of events,” according to a statement released by the Somerville family.

“Words alone will never be enough to express the devastation and sorrow we feel for Stockton Professional Firefighter Max Fortuna’s wife and two children,” the statement says.

Robert Somerville is being held without bail.


(c)2022 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)