STOCKTON (CBS13) –Three people are dead and one other person was injured after suspected bank robbers took three women hostage at a Stockton bank and led police on a chase that ended in a hail of bullets.
The violent incident unfolded Wednesday afternoon at the Stockton Bank of the West near Hammer Lane and Pacific Avenue, police say. There, three suspects took three women hostage and left in the bank manager’s blue Ford Explorer.
Jose Maldonado says he had just exited a bus near the bank when he saw armed gunmen leave the bank with three distraught women.
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“I noticed that the front of the Bank of the West opened slowly. Three guys had three guns and had the guns to the hostages’ heads. They were petrified. Their faces were white. They were so scared,” he Maldonado.
Police say the guns were AK-47 rifles.
“One by one, they had the hostages drive for them. They got in the car, and the cops surrounded the car and they couldn’t shoot at them because they were so close to the hostages,” he said.
The chase moved onto Interstate 5 for a time, then back onto surface streets. During the chase, the suspects opened fire on the pursuing officers, hitting several of their vehicles and nearby houses, according to Stockton Police Department Officer Joe Silva.
Silva says one hostage was shot and pushed from the vehicle and a second was also forced from the vehicle and may have been grazed by a bullet.
Jose Maldonado, who says he was at the bank at the time, reported seeing the suspect being forced to drive the vehicle, which has been registered to the bank manager.
The pursuit ended at Thornton Road and Otto Drive at around 3:40 p.m. A barrage of shots were fired, and four people were struck. Two people believed to be suspects were taken to the hospital to be treated for their injuries. One of those people later died. Two others were found dead in the SUV. One was identified as a suspect and the other was identified by Stockton Police Department Chief Eric Jones as a bank customer. Jones said she appears to have been used by the suspects as a shield during the shootout with officers.
No officers were reportedly injured during the incident.
The bank has issued the following statement:
“This is a tragic incident and we are focused on supporting our customers and employees. Of course, we are fully supporting law enforcement. We will provide updates as we’re able to do so. To respect the privacy of those involved, we will not be providing more information about the individuals at this time and we refer all other questions to law enforcement.”
This particular branch has been robbed three times since 2012. During the last robbery, which took place in January, 2014, robbers also drove off in an employee’s car. Those suspects were never caught.
(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that four people had died.)