SAN FRANCISCO — The family of a bank robbery hostage who was shot and killed in Stockton blamed police for the death Wednesday and demanded the city take financial responsibility.
Missy Holt-Singh was shot July 16 during a high-speed chase and shootout between police and three robbers. Two other hostages were wounded.
Gregory Bentley, a lawyer for Holt-Singh's family, said police officers acted irresponsibly by engaging in a running gun battle with the robbers while chasing the getaway car through Stockton's streets. Two of the robbers were also shot and killed.
The claim filed with the city alleges that robbers used Holt-Singh as a human shield. Bentley said officers fired more than 600 shots and 10 struck the 41-year-old Holt-Singh.
Bentley said police should not have fired on the robbers as long as Holt-Singh was exposed to danger.
"The police department's primary duty is to protect the hostage," Bentley said. "Shooting while Misty was in the vehicle violates every standard practice of police protocol."
Stockton City Attorney John Luebberke said the police are in the midst of an internal investigation of the incident and would await its results before reaching any conclusions.
Luebberke said "officers faced suspects who were intent on violence, firing hundreds of rounds from an automatic weapon and showing every potential for taking their rampage to any number of locations, including schools or private homes."
Holt-Singh's husband and two children are expected to file a lawsuit if city officials decline the claim, which asks for unspecified damages.
Holt-Singh was at the bank that day to withdraw $40 from an ATM while her teenage daughter waited in the car. One of the robbers forced Holt-Singh inside the bank while he was on the way in, Bentley said.
Stockton police spokesman Joe Silva referred calls to the city manager's office. Connie Cochran, a spokeswoman for the city manager, didn't immediately return a call and email inquiry.
Kelly Huber, one of the two surviving hostages, previously filed a $500,000 claim with the city, which is still pending. The city has filed for bankruptcy, but Bentley said that shouldn't prevent the city from paying damages if it is determined police are liable for Holt-Singh's death.
The city has insurance covering up to $39 million in damages, Bentley said.