More than three weeks after a violent bank robbery and chase left one victim dead and shook the Stockton region, police confirmed Monday that hostage Misty Holt-Singh was killed by police gunfire that struck her repeatedly while she was being used as a human shield.
The 41-year-old mother of two, who had stopped into a Bank of the West branch to get cash for a hair appointment July 16, was struck by about 10 bullets during the shootout between police and the robbery suspects, all of them from police weapons, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said in a somber news conference Monday afternoon.
The victim died “from gunshots fired by police officers as they confronted bank robbers who used her as a human shield,” Jones told reporters in videotaped remarks that were posted on the department’s website. “Every member of our department is deeply saddened that this event ended with the tragic death of an innocent victim.”
Jones met with Holt-Singh’s husband, Paul, over the weekend to inform him of the department’s findings and to tell him they would be publicly announced Monday, department spokesman Joseph Silva said.
With questions being raised about the tactics police used in responding to the incident, Los Angeles attorney Greg Bentley, a friend of the victim’s family, has requested that authorities provide information about what happened the day Holt-Singh was killed.
He said in a statement Monday that the family was concerned by Jones’ disclosures.
“The Singh family was saddened to receive the ballistic information concerning Misty’s death,” his statement said. “The manner in which Misty’s life was taken raises serious questions and concerns.
“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.”
Jones announced the department would review the tactics used and what lessons could be learned from it.
He stressed that the incident stemmed from an extremely violent robbery attempt that left the streets of Stockton and nearby highways littered with hundreds of shell casings.
“To say the dynamics here were unique is an understatement,” the chief said, adding that officers’ pursuit of the bank robbers was “a rolling, active shooter incident constantly putting the public and officers in danger.”
“There was a continual attempt to kill the officers, and we had concerns that they would take over another location or multiple locations,” Jones said.
The robbery began around 2 p.m. July 16 when three robbers entered the bank, police said. A fourth person, a driver, is still being sought.
The robbery spiraled out of control as the three men, armed with three handguns and an AK-47, took three hostages and ended up in a 61-minute, 55-mile pursuit that ended with the death of Holt-Singh and suspects Alex Gregory Martinez, 27, and Gilbert Renteria Jr., 30. Another suspect, Jaime Ramos, 19, survived and faces murder and other charges.
The other two hostages fell from the vehicle the robbers were fleeing in and survived.
Police have since posted a $50,000 reward for information on the driver, and Silva said the police “still need help.”
“We’ve gotten close to 100 tips coming in since we announced the $50,000 reward that will lead to the identity and arrest of this driver,” Silva said. He urged anyone with information to call (209) 946-0600.
Police said Monday that the AK-47 recovered after the robbery has been tied to a number of previous gang-related crimes, including one homicide.
Jones said the firepower officers faced was immense.
“We know the assailants fired over 100 bullets during the incident,” he said. “We know the assailants were not even halfway through their ammo supply.”
Another 200 unfired rounds were discovered inside their vehicle, he said.
“They were prepared to continue their assault on law enforcement and anyone else who got in their way,” Jones said, adding that 33 police officers fired about 600 rounds throughout the ordeal.
Bentley’s California Public Records Act request seeks detailed records and policies on the use of force from the department. He has filed similar requests with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol and the Lodi Police Department.
“The Singh family has been crushed by this horrible tragedy and are searching for answers,” Bentley said in a July 31 statement that said he and Paul Singh had met with the chief two days earlier to discuss the matter.
Jones acknowledged Monday that there are many questions about how the incident played out and said he was releasing information Monday to answer some of those questions. He added that more information will be released as the investigations continue.
“We know the family had questions, the community had questions and the police department had questions,” Jones said.