The family of a California man who was arrested in connection with Monday’s shooting death of a fire captain claims the shooting was an accident and not a malicious act.
Stockton Fire Capt. Vidal “Max” Fortuna, 47, was responding to a dumpster fire call around 4:45 a.m. when he was allegedly shot and killed by Robert Somerville, 67, who was later arrested on murder and weapons charges, FOX 40 of Sacramento reported.
CALIFORNIA FIREFIGHTER SHOT AND KILLED WHILE BATTLING FIRE; SUSPECT FACING HOMICIDE AND WEAPONS CHARGES
Somerville’s family released a statement saying the alleged shooting was “not an intentional callous act,” according to the report.
“Words alone will never be enough to express the devastation and sorrow that we feel for Stockton Professional Firefighter Max Fortuna’s wife and two children,” the family said, FOX 40 reported. “I can assure Firefighter Fortuna’s immediate Family, and all who care for Mr. Fortuna that this was not an intentional callous act in the death of Mr. Fortuna.”
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In the statement, the family said Somerville owns and operates a business near where the fire took place and suspected a break-in was occurring.
“Robert ‘Bob’ Somerville 67 is not a violent person and is a long-standing business owner (and former engineer) in the Stockton community… for over 30 years. He operates his business, and resides in the warehouse that was adjacent to where the fire occurred at 5:00am this morning,” the statement added.
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Fire Chief Rick Edwards said Fortuna, who worked with the fire department 21 years, was transported to San Joaquin General Hospital, where he later died, Fox 40 reported.
“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,” the family continued in the statement, according to the report. “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,” the statement concluded, FOX 40 reported.
The son of the arrested California business owner also described the incident as a “freak circumstance,” KOVR-TV of Sacramento reported.
“I would like to say that you know my family would like to send our condolences to the Fortuna family,” Tre Somerville said Monday, according to the report. “It’s very unfortunate what happened today, and it’s just a freak circumstance.”
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A .380 caliber handgun was found at the scene at the crime, according to Stockton police.
The Stockton fire chief described the shooting as his “worst nightmare” and said Monday was “a very, very sad day for this fire department,” in a statement to Fox News Digital.