It was a police chase of unprecedented proportions, even for this violence-plagued city.
For more than an hour Wednesday afternoon, a growing cavalcade of Stockton police officers pursued a single sport-utility vehicle throughout the streets and highways of northern San Joaquin County, undeterred by what authorities described as a barrage of gunfire from as many as four firearms.
The stakes were high. Inside the Ford Explorer were three, then two, then a final hostage held against her will by three suspected bank robbers. According to the police account, dozens of officers and untold bystanders stood at risk as stray rounds pierced homes, parked cars and patrol cruisers. The danger seemed to grow with every minute.
About 67 of them passed before the gunfire ceased and the sirens were silenced, revealing among the worst possible outcomes: The final hostage was dead, along with two fatally injured captors.
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It is not yet clear when the woman, identified by family and friends in social media as Misty Holt-Singh, was fatally injured or by whom. Nonetheless, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said Thursday that his department was “deeply saddened” by the outcome of an episode that had greatly tested his force.
“The fact that these three violent gunmen put our community at such jeopardy is deplorable. The fact that they attempted to kill our officers and put the hostages and community at harm is beyond comprehension,” Jones said in a Thursday morning news conference. “The gunmen had not the slightest intent of a peaceful resolution as they continued to cause … mayhem and havoc.”
The fallout from Wednesday’s violence continued to reverberate. A stoic police chief defended his officers’ actions in a situation that was far from textbook. Off-duty officers were called in, overtime was accruing and backup from neighboring agencies was enlisted after more than two dozen officers involved in the shootings were placed on paid administrative leave. Families and friends mourned. And a community so long besieged by street violence tried to fathom the latest Stockton tragedy.
“You’re not safe anywhere,” concluded Jennifer Rader, who has lived in the city with her daughter for most of the last 20 years. “If you’re not safe going to the bank, you’re not safe anywhere.”
Police identified the sole surviving suspect as Jaime Ramos, 19, of Stockton. Ramos is an associate of known Norteño gang members and was a rear passenger in the fleeing SUV, Jones said. He also is the suspect who was seen using the hostage as a human shield in the final shootout with police, the chief said. Efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful, and he declined interviews.
His two alleged co-conspirators have not been identified. Their weapons included an AK-47 assault rifle, two .45-caliber handguns and a 9 mm handgun, Jones said. Strapped to their bodies were “massive amounts” of ammunition, according to the chief.
Speaking to nearly two dozen reporters, he described the suspects’ actions as “beyond comprehension,” stunning even longtime police veterans.
“In two decades of law enforcement, I’ve never seen it,” Jones said in a later interview. “To be so brazen – you could go 30 lifetimes and never see it, it’s that rare.”