Misty Holt-Singh had just popped into the bank, leaving her 12-year-old daughter in the car, when the horror began. An hour later, the mother of two lay dead after a bank robbery and planned hostage-taking spun into a chaotic police chase and furious gunbattle during which two holdup men were killed, authorities said.
Holt-Singh was found dead at the end of a shootout in which one of the robbers who took her hostage used her as a human shield, according to police.
“In my over two decades of law enforcement, I have never seen or experienced this type of total disregard for human life nor the intensity of the situation that our officers were faced with,” Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said.
“It is very rare for bank robbers to take hostages. It is very rare for them to so heavily arm themselves and prepare to kill and then to actively and continually to try to kill our police officers.”
Whose bullets killed Holt-Singh remained unclear Thursday, a day after the burst of violence in this Northern California city, but police said the responsibility rests with the three bank robbers.
In the aftermath of the shootout, police and FBI agents sorted through hundreds of bullet holes in 14 police vehicles, citizens’ cars, homes and businesses along the route of the chase.
The drama began Wednesday afternoon. The suspects entered the Bank of the West branch wearing hooded sweatshirts and sunglasses and with guns drawn, San Joaquin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Ronald Freitas said. They tied up a security guard, took over the bank and went to the vault to get money, he said.
On the way out, they abducted Holt-Singh and two other women, both bank employees, as they made their getaway. It’s not clear whether the employees were targeted before the holdup.
During the hourlong chase through the city, the two bank employees jumped or were thrown from the stolen SUV. At least one suffered a gunshot wound. Both were expected to survive.
Police managed to shoot out the tires of the vehicle, and the getaway attempt ended in a hail of gunfire.
The sole surviving suspect was identified Thursday as Jaime Ramos, 19, of Stockton, who wasn’t injured. Police said the other robbers, age 27 and 30, were gang members, also from Stockton. Ramos was scheduled to be arraigned Monday, and Freitas said prosecutors anticipate charging him with murder and special circumstances including kidnapping, robbery and burglary that could make him eligible for the death penalty.