Stockton police blamed for hostage death in California shootout

Posted Oct 26, 2014 by Nathan Salant
Police in the Northern California city of Stockton have hired an outside group to investigate last summer's bank robbery and shootout that killed two of three suspects but also resulted in the death of a woman who had been taken hostage.
The nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation said it would conduct its own investigation of the July 16 tragedy, which ended in a hail of gunfire on a city street.
"Our examination of this incident will be complete and unflinching,” the foundation's president, Jim Bueermann, said in a written statement.
“Our goal is to understand as thoroughly as possible every element of what happened in Stockton on July 16th and to learn all we can about a very complex series of events, " he said.
But the independent probe is only one of at least six investigations expected to be already underway or starting soon, as each of the four police forces involved in the shootout — and the victim's family — tries to figure out what went wrong.
More than 600 shots were fired by police officers as they followed the SUV allegedly taken by the three bank robbers as they fled the Bank of the West branch at 7810 Thornton Road in Stockton and drove northwest, firing at officers chasing them.
The frenzied chase went on for nearly three miles before the SUV was cornered and the suspects shot it out with law enforcement on Thornton at Otto Drive.
Suspects Alex Gregory Martinez, 27, and Gilbert Renteria Jr., 30, were killed and the third, 19-year-old Jaime Rios, who survived, faces murder and more than two dozen other charges.
But Misty Holt-Singh, a 41-year-old mother of two who had stopped by the bank to use the ATM and was grabbed by the alleged robbers as a hostage, was struck by police bullets 10 times during the shootout and died.
Two of the three hostages fell or were thrown from the SUV during the chase and survived.
Stockton police also are considering whether to arrest two other suspects who may have played minor roles in the robbery.
Other police involved in the chase and shootout included the Lodi Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department.
“We believe it’s essential that our department learn all it can from this tragic event – but also that agencies everywhere learn all they can from it," Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said.
" If there are lessons to be learned or ways to improve how an agency"responds to this kind of critical, complex event, we want to share those lessons as openly and as broadly as we can,” he said.
But an attorney for the Singh family, Greg Bentley of San Francisco, said at a news conference that the conduct of Stockton police was "shocking" and said bank security cameras showed Holt-Singh begging for her life during the ordeal, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Bentley has demanded copies of all police records in the case, including 911-calls and other recordings, photographs, video, as well as copies of written protocols that police are expected to follow in cases involving hostages, television station KCRA-TV in Sacramento reported.
"The family is seeking answers as to how such a wonderful woman could be lost in such a horrific fashion," Bentley said.
Stockton police have acknowledged that Holt-Singh was killed by bullets fired by law enforcement officers, according to the Stockton Record newspaper.