Last July 16th three men walked into a Bank of the West Branch in Stockton California , tied up a security guard and robbed a vault at gunpoint. The men then took three women hostage including the bank’s manager.
What unfolded next was a police chase by 34 officers for an hour who had full knowledge that that one of the women left after two escaped was being used a a human shield by the bank robbers.
One of the robbers saw an officer outside the bank and went back inside. The robber and his two accomplices then emerged with three hostages, including Holt-Singh. They stole a bank employee’s car and drove off.
Over the next hour, officers with the California Highway Patrol and Stockton police (by 34 officers) gave chase across three counties. Two hostages were wounded and ejected from the vehicle but Holt-Singh stayed until the chase reached its violent conclusion.
Stockton police fired more than 600 rounds at the car during the chase and struck Holt-Singh 10 times. All ten rounds fired at Singh that killed her came from rounds from the police. Authorities even stated that that Holt-Singh was used as a human shield during the ensuing shootout, which left two of the three bank robbers also dead.
The department’s protocol requires only two or three cars to give chase and that officers are supposed to go into bank robbery situations “with stealth” so the robbers aren’t alerted and take hostages but officers confronted the robbers immediately after they exited the bank and a slew of cars gave chase when they fled.
It was the exact conduct these policies and procedures are made to prevent. It created a hostage situation. In California and elsewhere, there is POST. Police Officers Standards and Training. For guidelines for deadly force and pursuits
34 officers discharged their weapons. The Police Chief of Stockton in a press conference flatly stated “The city has refused to accept responsibility for their actions…”that he would not take any responsibility nor accountability to the events.
Nevertheless, he defended the officers’ actions that day. He said it was already a hostage situation when the first officers were spotted by the robbers, “who were intent on violence, firing hundreds of rounds from automatic weapons and showing every potential for taking their rampage to any number of locations.”
Another bank employee was also shot, Kelly Huber, an employee at the bank.
Huber said than an officer negligently interrupted the bank robbery and caused the subsequent kidnapping and shooting. Police weren’t prepared to contain the robbers before confronting them and didn’t wait until she and the other two hostages were free before trying to capture the suspects, which only made the situation more dangerous, Huber said. Huber was shot in both legs and broke a bone in the incident.
The police has options during a pursuit, ramming or what is known as a pit maneuver, spike strips, road blocks or blowing out a tire or two to slow down the pursuit. As per POST training and my training, you do not need a sea of vehicles to conduct a vehicle pursuit while there is air support.
Aircraft Rules; Departments have or should have specific rules governing departmental aircraft in pursuit.
These identical rules, which follow:
When an aircraft is available to assist and has advised ground officers that the suspect vehicle is in view, the following guidelines will be used:
- Officers in primary vehicles will turn off their emergency lights and slow to a safe operating speed.
- The aircraft will continue to advise of the suspect vehicle’s location and approximate speed.
- Support units should attempt to be in a position to apprehend the suspect when the suspect vehicle stops.
- The aircraft will maintain a safe height to allow the operator to observe the suspect vehicle.
When the officer making this pursuit has knowledge that a hostage is in the vehicle in pursuit, they must take any reasonable methods not to harm the hostage or the general public during that pursuit especially with full knowledge that the perps was using that hostage was a human shield and had taken other hostages with them.
It is the duty of the supervisory on duty to make that call. In that regard, that supervisor is directly responsible and the training of these officers was not met. Once there is air support, you must terminate that pursuit. Plain and simple. Once the robbers think they are longer being pursued, they will lower their speed and get to the planned location and the police will have full knowledge and then move in. No one has an unlimited supply of gasoline.
At that time, a carefully and orchestrated tactical apprehension could be made with limited or no casualties to the assailants, hostage or officers.