Three women were taken hostage in a California bank robbery.
Two of the hostages were thrown from a fleeing SUV, as the bank robbers 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.
The violence began at 2 p.m. when officers responded to a call of a robbery at a Bank of the West branch in north Stockton. Arriving officers spotted three men taking three female hostages from the bank at gunpoint. The robbers stole a bank employee’s SUV and led officers on the pursuit, Stockton police Officer Joe Silva said.
During the chase that lasted 45 minutes and spanned several miles, one of the hostages was thrown from the SUV and was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound, Joe Silva said. The pursuit continued as the suspects fired with AK-47 style rifles from the SUV.
Fourteen police cars and an unknown number of homes along the robbers’ path were peppered with gunshots, Police Chief Eric Jones told a news conference late Wednesday.
“It was such a chaotic … fluid situation, really one of the most dangerous, tense situations that a police officer could go through,” Eric Jones said.
“There was a lot on the line and the officers responded appropriately,” he said.
A second hostage was later thrown from the vehicle, and officers tending to her found she had suffered a grazing bullet wound, Joe Silva said.
When the SUV became disabled at a street intersection, officers exchanged a barrage of gunfire with someone inside the vehicle.
When it was all over, the third hostage was found dead in the SUV and one of the robbers was also dead. The police chief said the hostage was a bank customer, and that she appears to have been used by the suspects as a shield during the shootout.
Police said the other two suspects were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds, and one of them later died.
The surviving suspect was conscious, Eric Jones said.
Witnesses said the shootout that brought the episode to a close looked like a war.
Eric Jones said the robbers also tied up a bank security guard.
The bank said in a statement that it would not provide information about the victims.
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