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Bank customer among 3 dead in holdup and shootout in California

  • 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 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)

  • First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests after her keynote speech at the Unite For Veterans Summit in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The event was organized to discuss ways of providing opportunities for veterans to find employment and housing. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

    First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests after her keynote speech at the Unite For Veterans Summit in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The event was organized to discuss ways of providing opportunities for veterans to find employment and housing. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

  • 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 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 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 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 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)

  • Stockton Police officers at the scene where bank robbery suspects with hostages were stopped at Thornton Road and Otto Drive Wednesday July 16, 2014. Cars and houses were riddled with bullets during a high-speed chase and hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV after a bank robbery Wednesday that led to the deaths of a hostage and two robbers, police said.   (AP Photo/The Record, Craig Sanders)

    Stockton Police officers at the scene where bank robbery suspects with hostages were stopped at Thornton Road and Otto Drive Wednesday July 16, 2014. Cars and houses were riddled with bullets during a high-speed chase and hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV after a bank robbery Wednesday that led to the deaths of a hostage and two robbers, police said. (AP Photo/The Record, Craig Sanders)

  • Stockton Police officers at the scene where bank robbers with hostages were stopped Wednesday July 16, 2014. Cars and houses were riddled with bullets during a high-speed chase and hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV after a bank robbery Wednesday that led to the deaths of a hostage and two robbers, police said.   (AP Photo/The Record, Craig Sanders)

    Stockton Police officers at the scene where bank robbers with hostages were stopped Wednesday July 16, 2014. Cars and houses were riddled with bullets during a high-speed chase and hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV after a bank robbery Wednesday that led to the deaths of a hostage and two robbers, police said. (AP Photo/The Record, Craig Sanders)

  • 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)

    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)

  • 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 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 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)
  • First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests after her keynote speech at the Unite For Veterans Summit in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The event was organized to discuss ways of providing opportunities for veterans to find employment and housing. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
  • 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 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)
  • Stockton Police officers at the scene where bank robbery suspects with hostages were stopped at Thornton Road and Otto Drive Wednesday July 16, 2014. Cars and houses were riddled with bullets during a high-speed chase and hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV after a bank robbery Wednesday that led to the deaths of a hostage and two robbers, police said.   (AP Photo/The Record, Craig Sanders)
  • Stockton Police officers at the scene where bank robbers with hostages were stopped Wednesday July 16, 2014. Cars and houses were riddled with bullets during a high-speed chase and hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV after a bank robbery Wednesday that led to the deaths of a hostage and two robbers, police said.   (AP Photo/The Record, Craig Sanders)
  • 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)
  • 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)

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 spun into a chaotic police chase and furious gunbattle in which two holdup men were also killed.

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, authorities said.

Whose bullets killed Holt-Singh remained unclear yesterday, a day after the burst of violence in the Northern California city of Stockton, but the police said the responsibility rests with the three bank robbers.

“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.”

In the aftermath, police officers and FBI agents sorted through hundreds of bullet holes in 14 police vehicles, residents’ cars, homes and businesses along the route of the chase.

The drama began Wednesday afternoon when the gunmen held up a Bank of the West branch in Stockton and took Holt-Singh and two other women hostage as they made their getaway. It was unclear what led them to take hostages.

During the hourlong chase through the city, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, two of the hostages, both bank employees, jumped or were thrown from a 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 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 yesterday as Jaime Ramos, 19, of Stockton, who wasn’t injured. The police said the other robbers, ages 27 and 30, were gang members, also from Stockton.

The 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.

The police chief said 20 officers who fired their weapons were put on administrative leave pending an investigation – standard procedure after a shooting. He said he believes the officers acted appropriately.

Stockton, a city of about 300,000, was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and the recession and slid into bankruptcy in 2012. Police officers left for jobs elsewhere, and the city – which has had a long-standing gang problem – saw a spike in violent crime. But the city is close to emerging from bankruptcy.

“Just when you get some momentum in the city, stuff like this happens,” Mayor Anthony Silva lamented. “It hits national TV and people are going to say Stockton’s ghetto.”

The bank branch was locked and empty yesterday. 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 today 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.

On the website for the dentist’s office where she worked as a treatment coordinator, Holt-Singh said, “I enjoy watching my kids play softball and swimming. In my free time I love to coach my kids in softball, snowboarding, and traveling to different countries.”

A longtime friend, Andi Burrise of Stockton, described Holt-Singh as a wonderful woman deeply devoted to her husband and the couple’s son and daughter.

“I’m shocked and I’m frustrated by the senselessness of it all,” Burrise said.

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 officers 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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