Family and friends mourn death of HFD inspector

The 55-year-old father of two was allegedly gunned down outside his home by his ex-wife's husband

By Phil Archer - Reporter

HOUSTON - Fellow firefighters are mourning the death of 55-year-old David Stoneham, a Houston Fire Inspector who was gunned down in front of his home as his 17-year-old daughter watched Monday.

Stoneham was a 33-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department.

Friends say he dedicated his life to public service, and as a fire inspector, he saw himself as an advocate for the public.

Captain Joey Scheurich, who first met Stoneham as a rookie 28 years ago, said, "This is the first time I've lost a best friend, and you go through every single emotion."

Another old friend, Capt. Karl Schafler, said he and others are struggling to understand why anyone would want to kill Stoneham.

"It was a shock, it really was. I thought, not David, not a shooting. No that's not how this is supposed to have played out," Schafler said.

Stoneham was a divorced father of two teenaged daughters and a son.

Schafler said his friend lived for his children.

"When his kids were young he took out loans, he worked extra jobs so he could make sure they had a good education." Schafler said.

On Tuesday, Houston Police arrested Alain Bell, 45, and charged him with Stoneham's murder.

Bell is a registered sex offender who is married Stoneham's ex-wife.

Stoneman was concerned about Bell being around his children, and according to his friend, Tracy Blackwell, the two men had argued recently.

"He felt something was wrong. He just could not put his hands on it," Blackwell said.

The shooting happened at around 10 a.m. Monday in the 500 block of West Troy and Stuebner Airline Road.

Neighbors watched the shooting in disbelief.

"I'm still in shock and it's hard for me to process," said John Stegall.

He was taking out the trash when the boom of a shotgun sent him scrambling for cover.

"I'll have trouble sleeping tonight," said Stegall.

He yelled for his wife to dial 911 as he saw Stoneham lying in the street. While Stegall was on the phone with a dispatcher, his wife tried to comfort Stoneham's daughter, who was screaming in the front yard.

"I said, 'You OK?' She said, 'No, that's my dad and my stepfather shot my dad,'" said Linda Walker.

Police said it appeared that Bell, waited for Stoneham to come home, parking his truck a couple of houses away.

Detectives said Stoneham's daughter told them she and her father had just pulled into the driveway at 538 West Troy near Stuebner Airline, when she got out of the car and was walking up to the house.

"All she heard was the racking of the gun, the shots and then heard dad collapse," said John Cannon with the Houston Police Department.

Police said Stoneham was shot twice point blank. The daughter told police Bell shot her father once in the chest.

When her father fell to the ground, she said he was shot again.

Officials said Stoneham later died at the hospital.

After the shooting, neighbors said they saw Bell calmly walk back to his truck and drive off.

"He looked at me and I looked at him and he just went on down the street like nothing had happened," said Walker.

"He just took his time going on down the road," Stegall said.

Neighbors said Stoneham's daughter would only say it's a big mess.

"Shocking to me. To see a body in the street, someone shooting. It's traumatic to me," said Stegall.

Bell is now charged with murder. He's being held without bond.

Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, released a statement which read:

"The men and women of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association were saddened by the tragic passing of our brother. He was a thirty-three year member in good standing. We will keep his family members in our thoughts and prayers."

Bell was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault and four counts of aggravated robbery in 1985 and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

He was released on parole in 2000.

Bell was arrested around 3 p.m. Tuesday after leading police on a brief chase when they spotted him in the 2600 block of the South Loop.

He's charged with murder and is currently being held without bond.

Bell is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday.

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