Prosecutors seek death penalty in violent Stockton bank robbery

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a suspect in last year's violent Stockton bank robbery

Prosecutors in Northern California said they will seek the death penalty against the man they say is the only surviving perpetrator of a bank robbery last year that led to a police chase and a shootout and left two alleged accomplices and a hostage dead.

The San Joaquin County district attorney's office announced its intent concerning Jaime Ramos, 20, in a post on its Facebook page, and said it would seek a sentence of life in prison for Pablo Ruvalcaba, 21, the alleged driver in the robbery. Ruvalcaba is accused of dropping off Ramos and two other men in front of a Bank of the West branch in Stockton last summer.

In a 47-count grand jury indictment unsealed last year, Ramos and Ruvalcaba were charged with multiple counts of murder, robbery and kidnapping and more than 30 counts of attempted murder of a peace officer.

They are due to go to trial next year.

The two dead suspects were documented members of the Norteno gang, and Ramos is an alleged associate, authorities said.

According to police, the robbery began about 2 p.m. on July 16, 2014. A security guard was able to alert police to the robbery in progress at 2:11 before being tied up. A minute later, the first officer arrived on the scene and saw a suspect approach the bank door pointing a gun at a hostage’s head, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said.

Five minutes later, the suspects left the bank, shielded by a bank manager, another employee and Misty Holt-Singh, 42, authorities said, They left in the manager’s Ford Explorer, they said.

A few blocks away, one of the hostages was shot and either jumped or was pushed from the SUV, police said.

During an hourlong chase, the suspects would slow down, waiting for pursuing officers to come into view before opening fire with an AK-47-style assault rifle and other weapons, police said. Hundreds of shots were exchanged, with bullets riddling homes, civilian vehicles and 14 police cars.

The suspects lost police for a time and set up an ambush, but a police commander in an unmarked vehicle drove in from a different road, opened fire and foiled the trap, Jones said.

At 3:16 p.m., a second wounded hostage fell from the suspects' vehicle, police said. Two minutes later, officers shot out the SUV’s tires and it came to a stop. Suspects and police then exchanged gunfire in a prolonged battle.

When the shooting from the SUV stopped, authorities said, a police SWAT team found two gunmen and Singh fatally wounded. They recovered an assault rifle, three other guns and many magazines of ammunition.

Holt-Singh was shot by police in the battle, and authorities contend that the suspects used her as a human shield.

Stockton police fired more than 600 rounds at the car during the chase and struck Holt-Singh 10 times, according to a claim her  family filed against the city. One of the surviving hostages also has filed a claim in connection with the robbery.

The pursuit was one of the most violent incidents in Stockton’s history, police said. It spanned three counties and involved at least 35 officers. More than 20 officers discharged their weapons, officials said.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
49°