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Firefighter in California fatally shot while putting out dumpster fire, officials say

Capt. Max Fortuna was responding to a blaze about 4:45 a.m. Monday, according to the Stockton Fire Department. Fire Chief Richard Edwards said he was "devastated."

A firefighter in California was fatally shot Monday while putting out a dumpster fire, officials said.

Capt. Max Fortuna, a veteran firefighter with the Stockton Fire Department, was killed on the job, according to a statement from Stockton Fire Chief Richard Edwards, who said he was "devastated."

Edwards said Fortuna and other firefighters were extinguishing the predawn blaze in Stockton, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, when shots rang out.

Captain Max Fortuna.
Stockton, Calif., Fire Capt. Max Fortuna.Stockton Fire Department

"I’m devastated to report that Veteran Fire Captain Max Fortuna has succumbed to his injuries," Edwards said.

"Captain Fortuna served the City of Stockton for 21 years and leaves behind a wife and two grown children. I ask you to keep Captain Fortuna’s family and the Stockton Fire Department family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

Fortuna and other firefighters responded to call about a dumpster fire at about 4:45 a.m. Monday. Once they were on the scene, firefighters found a dumpster fire threatening a structure, Edwards said.

"As firefighters were extinguishing the fire, gunshots were heard, and the Fire Captain of Engine 2 had been struck," Edwards said.

Officer Joe Silva, a Stockton police spokesman, said late Monday afternoon that police had detained a 67-year-old man who is suspected in Fortuna’s death.

"We have the person who did the shooting in custody," Silva said.

Police Monday night said detectives arrested Robert Somerville, 67, on homicide and weapons charges in connection with the killing.

The department said in a statement that a .380-caliber handgun was recovered at the scene, but it did not detail a motive.

Somerville was being held without bail Monday night, according to online jail records. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

A motive was unknown, Silva said earlier Monday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Stockton Fire Captain Vidal 'Max' Fortuna, his family, and the entire Stockton Fire Department," Stockton police tweeted Monday.