Two suspects and a hostage were shot and killed Wednesday in a lengthy pursuit that followed an armed robbery at a bank in Stockton, authorities said.
The incident began shortly before 2:11 p.m., when three men carrying weapons walked into a Bank of the West branch, Chief Eric Jones of the Stockton Police Department said at an evening news conference. A security officer was able to report the incident by phone but was then tied up by the robbers, Jones said.
A police officer arrived at the location at 2:12 p.m. and saw the suspects taking hostages at gunpoint, the department said. More law enforcement personnel, including hostage negotiators, were called to the scene.
Minutes later, the three robbers exited the building with three women as hostages – two Bank of the West workers and a customer, authorities said. The men allegedly then forced their captives into an SUV belonging to one of the employees and fled the parking lot, and a pursuit ensued.
After traveling less than two blocks, the suspects shot one of the bank employees and “either threw her from the vehicle, or she jumped from the vehicle,” according to the police chief. An officer stopped and rendered aid to the woman, who is expected to survive. Other officers continued the chase, which lasted for about an hour.
The pursuit, which was joined by other agencies including the California Highway Patrol, made its way from Stockton to Acampo and back, authorities said. Acampo is located about 20 miles north of Stockton (map).
During the chase, officers “were constantly fired upon by the assailants with high-powered assault rifles,” Jones said. “The suspects had mass amounts of ammunition, even with some firearm magazines taped or strapped to their bodies. The gunfire on our officers was relentless.”
No law-enforcement personnel were injured in the incident. However, 14 patrol cars and multiple residences were struck by bullets during the shootout, according to police.
At 3:16 p.m., about an hour after the pursuit began, the other captive employee either jumped or was thrown from the SUV as it was traveling “at a high rate of speed – probably over 50 mph,” police said in a statement. She too is expected to survive.
About two minutes later, the vehicle became disabled near an intersection in Stockton, and the robbers exchanged gunfire with officers, authorities said.
One of the gunmen apparently used the third hostage, the customer, as a human shield during the final shootout, according to Jones.
“The incident ceased and it was determined that all four people within the vehicle had been shot,” he said. “Two of the suspects died of their wounds, one suspect was injured, and the female hostage was determined deceased.”
It was unclear when the hostage was shot, or by whom, he said.
A multi-agency investigation is underway.