The Police Foundation, an independent research organization in Washington, D.C., found that Stockton police officers used “unnecessary” and “excessive” force when an attempted bank robbery led to a kidnapping and high-speed pursuit of the would-be robbers.
The incident took place on July 16, 2014 when three armed gunmen entered a Bank of the West demanding money. However, the thieves’ plans were foiled when a security officer managed to notify police who quickly arrived on the scene. The gunmen then took three women hostage and escaped in one of the captive’s SUV, leading police on a lengthy pursuit before being cornered. The ensuing standoff ended after officers fired more than 600 rounds at the disabled SUV, killing two of the suspects and fatally wounding one hostage, 41-year-old wife and mother, Misty Holt-Singh. Holt-Singh was struck 10 times by police gunfire. The two other women were able to escape the vehicle and the third suspect was arrested and charged with multiple felony offenses including murder.
Authorities said officers were forced to open fire because one of the suspects had been firing at them with an AK-47 assault rifle during the chase. The subsequent independent investigation conducted by The Police Foundation, revealed that many of the officers involved had not received adequate training on how to handle such a situation. The report also blamed, “a bankrupt city’s cash-strapped police force staffed by many rookie officers with limited equipment and resources.”
The report also said that after the suspects’ vehicle was disabled, dozens of officers fanned out and many opened fire. “There were no dedicated shooters,” according to the report. “There was very little control, just police officers trying to stop a threat.”
“This lack of planning, along with the number of officers involved, created a level of chaos that was difficult to manage and overcome,” the report said.
These findings prompted Paul Singh, the husband of Misty Holt-Singh and their two kids, Paul Singh Jr. and Mia Singh to file a lawsuit against the Stockton Police Department. The suit, filed on Tuesday, alleges that officers violated Holt-Singh’s civil rights by using unreasonable force and battery, according to the Singh family’s attorney Gregory Bentley.
“You don’t create this chaos, because ultimately bad things happen,” said Bentley during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “They could not overcome their failures at the expense of the life of Misty.”
Stockton City Attorney John Luebberke declined to comment on the incident, citing pending litigation.