Bank customer among 3 dead in holdup and shootout

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Police: Gang Members Led Pursuit After Robbery

By SCOTT SMITH & MARTHA MENDOZA

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) - 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 in the street after a bank robbery spun into a chaotic police chase and furious gunbattle in which two holdup men were also killed.

Holt-Singh was shot to death as one of the robbers hid behind her, using her as a shield against police gunfire, authorities said.

Bank customer among 3 dead in holdup and shootout
This Wednesday July 16, 2014 image provided by the Stockton Police Department shows the scene of a bank robbery in Stockton, Calif. Three bank robbers took three women hostage as they made a getaway and waged a high-speed gunbattle with police that left three people dead and cars and homes riddled with bullets, authorities said. AP Photo/Stockton Police Department)
This Thursday, July 17, 2014 booking photo provided by the Stockton Police Department shows Jaime Ramos, 19, who was booked on suspicion of homicide, kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder in a Stockton, Calif. bank robbery that led to a high speed chase. Two other suspects were killed and two of the hostages were wounded during the ensuing chase. The third hostage, who police believe was used as a human shield, was found dead in the SUV after the shootout.. (AP Photo/Stockton Police Department)
This Wednesday July 16, 2014 image provided by the Stockton Police Department shows a closed sign on a Stockton, Calif. bank after a robbery. Three bank robbers took three women hostage as they made a getaway and waged a high-speed gunbattle with police that left three people dead and cars and homes riddled with bullets, authorities said. (AP Photo/Stockton Police Department)
This photo provided by the Stockton Police Department shows a shot tire and firearm from the scene of a bank robbery Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Stockton, Calif. Robbers fleeing a Stockton, California, bank took three women hostage and threw two of them from their getaway vehicle, as they fired repeatedly at police during a high-speed chase. Police shot out their tires but the shooting continued, fatally wounding two suspects and the last hostage. (AP Photo/Stockton Police Department)
This Wednesday July 16, 2014 image provided by the Stockton Police Department shows a condolence letter written for Misty Holt-Singh, who was married with children, one of the victims of a bank robbery Wednesday July 16, 2014 in Stockton, Calif. Three bank robbers took three women hostage as they made a getaway and waged a high-speed gunbattle with police that left three people dead and cars and homes riddled with bullets, authorities said. (AP Photo/Stockton Police Department)
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Whose bullets killed Holt-Singh is unclear, but police said the ultimate responsibility rests with the three bank robbers, who authorities said weren't just after cash - they wanted to kill people.

"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. 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," Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said Thursday.

Police and FBI agents were sorting through hundreds of bullet holes in 14 police cars, an armored vehicle, citizens' cars, homes and businesses - the litter left behind by the drama Wednesday that began when the gunmen held up a Bank of the West branch in Stockton and took three women hostage as they made their getaway.

It ended in a hail of gunfire after police shot out the tires of the getaway vehicle.

During the hour-long chase through this city about 80 miles east of San Francisco, two of the hostages, both bank employees, jumped or were thrown from the stolen SUV, one of them while it may have been going more than 50 mph. At least one suffered a gunshot wound. Both were expected to survive.

The only surviving suspect was identified Thursday as Jaime Ramos, 19, of Stockton, who wasn't injured. Police said the other robbers, ages 27 and 30, were gang members, also from Stockton.

Police said that they recovered at least three handguns and an assault rifle and that the gunmen had ammunition strapped to their bodies.

"The firing never stopped," Jones said. "They were trying to kill (the officers), no doubt."

The bank branch was locked and empty Thursday. A note in the window said the closing was temporary and due to an emergency. Another note said the branch was set to close for good on Friday and move to another location.

Somebody had placed two bundles of flowers outside the front door with a handwritten note to "Misty." ''Today you were so brave. You died in a haze of bullets, on a lovely afternoon," the unsigned note said. "We all will look after Paul and the kids. You will be sadly missed."

Holt-Singh's Facebook page became a memorial as friends, family and strangers paid tribute to the 41-year-old woman, who had close ties in the community and had been married to Paul Singh for 14 years.

At the website for the dentist's office where she worked as a treatment coordinator, she described how she loved her family.

"I enjoy watching my kids play softball and swimming," said her bio. "In my free time I love to coach my kids in softball, snowboarding, and traveling to different countries."

Witness Jose Maldonado, who said he saw the robbers taking the women out of the bank, said the men had rifles slung over their shoulders and didn't seem to care that there were police all around.

"They were not afraid. They weren't going to take no for an answer. These poor women, they were screaming, they were so distraught, so scared," Maldonado said.

During the holdup, the robbers also tied up a security guard. The amount taken was not disclosed.

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