Family of slain California bank robbery hostage sues city

AP News
Posted: Aug 18, 2015 2:22 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Police who shot and killed a bank robbery hostage in a hail of gunfire had been told to hold their fire before they shot indiscriminately, with no line of sight on the suspects or hostage, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the slain hostage's family.

Stockton police officers used unreasonable force when they fired more than 600 times at the vehicle containing the suspects and hostage Misty Holt-Singh, the lawsuit against the police department and city claims.

Holt-Singh, 41, was struck by 10 of the bullets officers fired in the July 2014 shootout. Police have said she was used as a human shield by the sole surviving suspect.

"This indiscriminate gunfire was counter to the primary police objective in hostage situations — to take necessary steps to free innocent persons who are endangered and held against their will, and take reasonable action having a high probability of neutralizing the deadly threat or preventing the situation from escalating," the lawsuit says.

The suit by Holt-Singh's husband, Paul, and their two kids, Paul Jr. and Mia, seeks unspecified damages. It accuses officers of violating Holt-Singh's civil rights and committing battery. Stockton city officials did not immediately return calls and emails for comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit comes a day after the release of a report commissioned by the Stockton police department that found the 600 shots police fired at the end of the bank robbery were excessive and unnecessary, with some officers only firing their weapons because other officers were shooting.

The report by the nonprofit Police Foundation also found some Stockton police officers opened fire with their colleagues standing right in front of them. The report said a lack of planning was partly to blame for the unnecessary shooting.

In a statement responding to the report, Police Chief Eric Jones said the department intends to learn everything it can from the findings and use them to improve. Jones has said the robbers posed a risk to officers and the community and had to be stopped.

The three suspects, armed with handguns and an AK-47, robbed a Bank of the West branch on July 16, 2014, and took Holt-Singh and two other women hostage before fleeing in a bank employee's SUV.

Holt-Singh, one of those hostages, had gone to the bank with her 12-year-old daughter, who sent a text message to her father, according to the Police Foundation report. "Leave work. Bank got robbed. They took mom," the message read.

The suspects then led police on an hour-long pursuit and gun battle during which they fired about 100 shots from the AK-47 and shot up more than a dozen police vehicles.

One of the hostages, bank manager Kelly Huber, was shot by one of the suspects and either jumped or was pushed out of the vehicle. The other hostage, Stephanie Koussaya, a bank teller, said she jumped out.