Stockton bank robbery suspect used dead hostage as ‘human shield’
Police in Northern California detailed a violent bank robbery Wednesday that left two gunmen and a female hostage dead, recalling a “relentless” hail of bullets unleashed on officers as they pursued the suspects through three cities.
Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said at a news conference that, in all, the three armed robbers shot 14 police cars, three hostages and an undetermined number of homes during a one-hour police chase through three cities.
“The gunfire on our officers was relentless,” Jones said. “It was really one of the most dangerous, tense situations a police officer can ever go through.”
Police said three armed men walked into a Bank of the West in the 700 block of Thornton Road after 2 p.m. It’s unclear how they got there.
A bank guard managed to alert authorities to the robbery at 2:11 p.m. before he was tied up, Jones said, and a minute later, the first Stockton police officer was at the scene. The officer confirmed the three robbers were taking hostages at gunpoint -- two female employees and a female customer.
At 2:16 p.m., the gunmen and their hostages emerged from the bank and jumped into one of the hostages’ vehicles – a green SUV. The chase and shootout to follow, Jones said, was “unfathomable.”
As the SUV sped through Stockton, Lodi and Acampo, the robbers unleashed an unending barrage of gunfire at pursuing officers. The men had extra magazines taped or strapped to their bodies and at least one was armed with an AK-47-type assault rifle, Jones said.
The men shot 14 police cars, civilian vehicles and homes that they passed along the way.
A couple blocks into the pursuit, the robbers shot one of the bank employees who either leaped from the moving car or was pushed out, Jones said. She is expected to survive.
At 2:48 p.m., the men briefly lost police when they pulled off the highway. Instead of continuing on, they stopped and positioned themselves to ambush officers who were about to round the corner, Jones said. Only because an officer spotted them from another angle and shot at them was the ambush foiled, he said.
At 3:16 p.m., the men shot the second employee, who was also pushed or jumped out of the car. She will also survive.
Two minutes later, police successfully shot out the car’s tires, which forced it to stop. Jones said using a spike strip was “not an option” because of the unending gunfire at officers.
Once the vehicle stopped at an intersection, they used their last hostage – identified by CBS Sacramento as Misty Holt-Singh – as a human shield. She was killed in the gunfire.
“These suspects wanted no part of a peaceful resolution,” Jones said. He noted that it was unclear when the final hostage was shot and by whom.
One of the gunmen was pronounced dead at the scene and a second died at a local hospital. A third was taken into custody and was conscious.
For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.
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