The woman killed after being taken hostage during a bank robbery in Stockton, Calif., located approximately 80 miles to the east of San Francisco, was the mother of two children whose daughter, 12, was waiting in the car while her mother made a quick trip into the bank. Just one hour later, Misty Holt-Singh, 41, was dead after the bank was robbed and she was taken hostage by the robbers. After a police chase occurred that was seemingly out of the movies and during a violent shoot-out, Holt-Singh was used as a human shield by the robbers – two of which were also killed.
Chief Deputy District Attorney of San Joaquin County, Ronald Freitas, said on Thursday that it was the intent of the robbers to take hostages when they entered the Bank of the West bank in Stockton with their guns drawn and dressed in sunglasses and hooded sweatshirts. They overpowered a bank security guard and tied the guard up, took control of the bank, and entered the vault. As they left after the bank robbery, the suspects took three women, including Holt-Singh and two employees of the bank, hostage. Although police were waiting for them when they left the bank, which is located in a strip mall, the robbers were heavily armed and were using the hostages to shield themselves from any gunfire. They herded the woman into a stolen Ford Expedition belonging to a bank employee and drove away from the bank, followed by police.
During the police chase that occurred after the bank robbery, the bank employees who had been taken hostage were either thrown from or they jumped out of the SUV. One woman exited the vehicle while its speed is estimated to have been over 50 mph, and the other sustained a gunshot injury. Both women are expected to recover. After an hour-long chase, police shot out the SUV’s tires, a shootout between the robbers and police ensued. Holt-Singh’s body was found in the robbers’ vehicle when the gunfire ceased.
Two of the suspects, aged 27 and 30, were also killed in the shootout. Police have indicated that all three were members of the Norteno street gang. The surviving robber has been identified as Jaime Ramos, 19, also from Stockton. He was uninjured in Wednesday’s events, and was arrested. He remains in the San Joaquin County Jail facing attempted murder, homicide, robbery and kidnapping charges. He is scheduled to be arraigned at the San Joaquin County Courthouse on Monday at 1:30 p.m.
Police are not certain whether their bullets or the robbers’ bullets caused the death of Holt-Singh, but they maintain that in either case, the woman’s death is to be blamed on the three suspects. Police chief of Stockton, Eric Jones, declared that in over twenty years in law enforcement, he had never witnessed such a “total disregard for human life.” He explained that it is “very rare” for hostages to be taken during bank robberies and for the robbers themselves to so heavily arm themselves in preparation to “kill our police officers.” Investigators discovered an assault rifle and no less than three handguns at the scene of the shootout. The suspects had also strapped ammunition to their persons.
Chief Jones shared that although he believes the officers reacted appropriately to the robbery and chase, all 2o of those involved who fired their guns have been put on a standard administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
After the bank robbery on Wednesday, the Bank of the West branch in Stockton was locked on Thursday and nobody appeared to be inside. Two notes had been placed in the window: One note said that the branch was temporarily closed because of an emergency, and the other was a notification that the branch was shutting the location down on Friday and moving permanently to another site. Two bouquets of flowers were left outside of the door along with a note to “Misty” saying that “We will all look after Paul and the kids.” Holt-Singh, who worked as a treatment coordinator at a dental office, was described as “wonderful” and “deeply devoted” to her family, which included her husband and their two children, a son and a daughter.
By Jennifer Pfalz