STOCKTON, Calif. >> A veteran central California firefighter was fatally shot today when he and others responded to a report of a dumpster fire and authorities arrested a suspect, officials said.
Fire Capt. Vidal “Max” Fortuna was shot before dawn in the city of Stockton and died at a hospital, Stockton Fire Chief Rick Edwards told reporters.
Edwards said the death is his “worst nightmare” as a fire chief.
“My message to my firefighters is to be strong. My heart breaks with you but we will get through this,” he said.
A 67-year-old man was detained at the scene and officers recovered a firearm, said interim Police Chief Jim Chraska. Homicide detectives are trying to determine what led up to the shooting, he said.
“This highlights the dangers public safety faces every day, and again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Fortuna family,” Chraska said.
Fortuna, 47, had been a firefighter for more than two decades and is survived by his wife and two adult children, Edwards said.
Dozens of police and fire department vehicles accompanied Fortuna’s body from the hospital to a funeral home.
The flag at Stockton City Hall was lowered to half-staff in honor of Fortuna.
Although Stockton firefighters have died doing their job, officials said it was likely the first time one was shot while on duty.
“This is something that I’ve never heard of here in the city of Stockton, firefighter being shot and killed,” police Officer Joe Silva told the Stockton Record.