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Family of slain hostage in Stockton robbery sues police, identifies officers

Family of slain hostage in Stockton robbery sues police, identifies officers
A Stockton police officer examines the bullet-riddled vehicle that authorities said was used by suspects attempting to flee the scene of a bank robbery on July 16, 2014. (Craig Sanders / Associated Press)

The family of a hostage killed by Stockton police during a bank robbery have sued the department and identified the officers involved, their attorney announced Tuesday.

In the wrongful death lawsuit filed in San Joaquin County, the husband and daughter of Misty Holt-Singh accuse Stockton police of negligence for the way they handled the July 16, 2014, robbery, pursuit and final shootout.

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Thirty-two officers unloaded more than 600 rounds during the hour-long incident; 10 of those bullets killed Holt-Singh after one of the three alleged gunman used her as a human shield, according to an independent review of the incident released Monday.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Stockton bank robbery: In the Aug. 18 California section, an article about a report on a Stockton bank robbery said that a manhunt for former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner occurred in 2012. The search took place in 2013. —
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The review, conducted by the Washington, D.C-based research group Police Foundation, said the amount of gunfire was "excessive," "unnecessary," and the result of confusion and little leadership from commanding officers. The rolling gun battle with a hostage was a "nightmare" scenario for police, the review said.

In a news conference Monday, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said the gunmen created the situation and said the circumstances his officers faced was unprecedented. But Holt-Singh's family disagrees.

"The department needs to stop making that excuse," said Greg Bentley, the family's attorney. "This is a case where police officers were not properly trained, did not follow protocol and ultimately the end result was something that could have been foreseen."

Two of the three gunmen had robbed the same bank before, authorities said. The report found that some of the officers who fired during the final shootout with the robbers engaged in "sympathetic firing," where they shoot because their colleagues are shooting, even if they haven't identified a specific target.

The department sent many officers to training immediately after the incident but none have been disciplined, which Bentley said is "inexcusable."

The chase lasted more than an hour, spanned three counties and covered more than 63 miles of highway. The robbers attempted to ambush police and unleashed more than 100 rounds from an AK-47 during the chase, the report stated. Fourteen police cars were disabled and several buildings and other vehicles were hit by stray bullets.

Two other hostages taken during the robbery jumped or were thrown from the vehicle during the chase and survived. The surviving alleged gunman has been charged with murder and multiple counts of attempted murder.

The report called the Stockton robbery a "sentinel" event that will change law enforcement forever, similar to the 1997 North Hollywood shooting, in which Los Angeles police officers found themselves initially outgunned by two bank robbers in body armor, and the 2013 Christopher Dorner manhunt, in which a former LAPD officer hunted local police before he died in a Big Bear gun battle. Both tested the nation's public safety system and exposed its holes.

The report did note, however, that "agencies across the country and the world have experienced some or most of these types of incidents, singularly or in combination."

The lawsuit identifies the following officers as those who fired their weapons that day:

Mark Boling; David Brown; Brad Burrell; George Camacho; Ralph Dominguez; Pancho Freer; Matthew Garlick; Erika Gonzalez; John Griffin; Gabriel Guerrero; David Hiland; Cliff Hoffman; Rodger Holscher; Kevin Knall; Sean Konoske; Patrick Mayer; Kristen McClure; Julio Morales; Ryan Morris; Ryan Rankinn; Mike Rodriguez; Ivan Rose; Lance Saur; Michael Serna; Pete Smith; Telly Strika; Jason Underwood; Neto Urias; Samnang Ven; Edward Webb; Drake Wiest; and Ronaldo Zalunardo.

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It is unclear who fired the shots that killed Holt-Singh, according to the lawsuit.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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