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California Bank Robbery Ends In Violent And Deadly Car Chase

A bank robbery in California ended in a running gunbattle between police and three armed men in an hourlong car chase. The suspects had taken three hostages with them after fleeing the bank in the city of Stockton. Two of the suspects died, along with one hostage.

The chase didn't end until police succeeded in shooting out the tires on the vehicle the men were in. TV footage from the scene shows a bullet-riddled SUV with at least one rifle next to it, a weapon resembling an AK-47.

"The suspects had massive amounts of ammunition either taped to or strapped to their bodies," Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said at a news conference. "The gunfire on our officers was relentless."

All three hostages suffered gunshot wounds — two of them survived after either jumping or being pushed from the SUV during the chase. One suspect is in custody, and the other two died as a result of gunfire.

Police were reportedly alerted to the robbery of a Bank of the West branch by a bank security guard who called 911 before the robbers tied him up. When officers arrived, they saw three armed men leading three women outside the bank. The group got into one of the women's car, a blue Ford SUV.

From local TV news KCRA:

"Jose Maldonado, who said he saw the robbers taking the women out of the bank, said the men had AK-47-like rifles slung over their shoulders — and they didn't seem to care that there were police all around.

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

The suspects led police on a chase up to the city of Lodi and then back down to Stockton.

"It was such a chaotic ... fluid situation, really one of the most dangerous, tense situations that a police officer could go through," Jones said.

Bullets hit at least 14 police cars and several houses during the chase. No officers were reported to have been injured. But police say the intense gunfire coming from the suspects' car made it more difficult to try to stop the chase.

From ABC affiliate News 10:

"The third hostage, identified as 41-year-old Misty Holt Singh, was visiting the bank as a customer when she was abducted by robbers. Singh's 12-year-old daughter was waiting in the car for her mother when the bank was robbed.

"Singh was found dead inside of the SUV due to gunfire, Stockton police said. Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said she was used as a human shield during the firefight, but it is unclear who shot her."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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