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Stockton bank robbery hostage killed by police gunfire, officials say

CrimeShootingsHomicide
A preliminary ballistics report indicates police bullets killed Misty Jean Holt-Singh during gun battle
Family of hostage killed by police during Stockton chase "saddened" by news, attorney says

Officials Monday said a Stockton woman taken hostage and used as a human shield during a bank robbery turned police chase last month was killed by gunfire from officers, not the suspects.

A preliminary ballistics report indicates it was bullets from the police that killed Misty Jean Holt-Singh during the chaotic July 16 gun battle, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said. Initial reports suggest she was shot about 10 times, he added.

The three suspects in the case -- two of whom were also killed -- fired more than 100 bullets during the one-hour incident and had more than 200 remaining, Jones said. Preliminary reports show 33 police officers fired an estimated 600 bullets, he added.

Jones said his department was “deeply saddened” by the 42-year-old’s death, and said there would be an external review of tactics and procedures used that day. But the chief blamed the suspects for a series of violent acts he said ultimately led to Holt-Singh's death.

Autopsy results are pending, Jones said. An investigation into the overall incident also is ongoing.

The chief called the use of Holt-Singh as a human shield a “clear cowardice act” that saved the surviving suspect from police gunfire. That suspect, Jones said, had no gunshot wounds.

“The assailants were intent on killing people, definitely police officers, on that day,” he said. “Whether to stop them or not was not an option. They had to be stopped.”

Holt-Singh’s family has requested information from law enforcement agencies involved in the shootout. The family’s attorney said in a statement Monday that they were “saddened to receive the ballistic information.”

“The manner in which Misty’s life was taken raises serious questions and concerns,” attorney Gregory L. Bentley said. “The family is hopeful, however, that the promised information, policies and procedures concerning the events of July 16 will be provided so that a fair, complete and transparent investigation can take place.”

The incident unfolded shortly after 2 p.m. July 16, when police said three men walked into a Bank of the West branch, tied up a security guard and robbed a vault at gunpoint. The men then took three women hostage, including the bank’s manager.

The suspects and their hostages got into the bank manager’s SUV and took off, sparking a wild chase that lasted about an hour. Hundreds of rounds were fired, striking police cars, civilian vehicles and homes.

Periodically, police said, the robbers would slow down and wait for pursuing officers to come into view before opening fire with an AK-47 assault rifle.

At two points in the chase, police said two of the hostages were wounded and ejected from the car. Both survived.

A prolonged gun battle ensued after police shot out the tires of the SUV. When officers finally got close to the vehicle, they found two of the gunmen and Holt-Singh mortally wounded.

Jones said Monday there was no opportunity for hostage negotiators to reach out to the suspects. He called it a “unique situation from the very beginning.”

“We are looking at everything from A to Z, and we will be looking at all actions throughout the event,” he said. “They were heavily armed with tons of ammunition, and the actions they took from points A to Z never really made sense.”

The slain suspects were identified as Stockton residents Gilbert Renteria Jr., 30, and Alex Gregory Martinez, 27. The surviving suspect, Jaime Ramos, 19, also of Stockton, was charged with 35 felony counts, including murder and attempted murder.  

Police are still searching for a fourth suspect believed to have been driving a black sedan seen on video dropping the men off in the area. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to that arrest.

Jones said investigators believe the AK-47 used by the suspects may have been used in a other gang-related shootings, including a homicide. The three suspects have been described by police as members of the Norteño gang.

Follow @katemather for more crime stories from across Southern California.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:34 p.m.: This post has been updated with more information from police, a statement from the family’s attorney, and background information on the incident itself.

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