STOCKTON (CBS13) — Stockton firefighters often have routine ride-along guests, but they say a recent ride should never have been on board their trucks.
The woman is the girlfriend of one of the armed robbers from July’s deadly Bank of The West robbery. The robber, as well as a hostage in the standoff and pursuit, were killed in a shootout with Stockton Police.
Firefighters say it’s the chief’s office who approves ride-along guests. They’re typically EMT students who need training hours.
The fire crew says Angelica Tovar, who claims to the be the girlfriend of deceased robbery suspect Gilbert Renteria went into as many as eight homes on Jan. 26 before she told firefighters who she was.
Over the phone, Tovar says she was honest with local media that she knew Renteria was a gang member. Stockton Police say Tovar has a record for loitering with the intent of prostitution in 2006.
Firefighters want to know how Tovar was approved by the city for a ride-along.
“They’re going to be in people’s homes, observing what we do,” said Stockton firefighters union vice president Matt Baker. “We need to make sure that citizens are safe and firefighters are safe also.”
Firefighters say the fire chief’s office runs the background checks. CBS13 obtained a copy of her waiver, which lists her real name, and includes an emergency contact who is a member of the Renteria family.
Stockton Fire Chief Jeff Piechura confirms Tovar passed the background check.
“They go in and do a live scan. It’s a fingerprint check by the Department of Justice screening,” he said. “We process that through our human resources.”
Over the phone Tovar said “I’m a certified EMT, but I need the ride-along hours for the paramedic program.” She adds she’s going to school in San Francisco and pursuing the career to care for her three children.
“I didn’t know what [Gilbert Renteria] was going to do that day,” she said, referring to the Bank of the West robbery. “I shouldn’t be punished for something my boyfriend did. I’m honest that he was a part of my life.”
Stockton’s fire union formally requested a third-party investigation into ride-along background checks.
Piechura says a full background check would cost the city between $800 and $1,100. But he says knowing now who Tovar was, he is now upset she made it on the ride-along call.