Thornton Road shootout a mile from campus shocks Bear Creek students



Map of the location of the shootout.

Jessica Dang, Staff Writer

Students at Bear Creek witnessed a shootout seen mostly in movies as police responded to a bank robbery that concluded on Thornton Road just a mile from the high school a week before school began on Wed., July 16.

One of the suspects, 30-year-old Gilbert Renteria, attended Bear Creek in 1999 and was fatally shot in the exchange of gunfire.

According to reports, three men entered the Bank of the West at Hammer Lane with an AK-47 assault rifle and three handguns, and took three women as hostages, throwing two of the victims out of a speeding car during a 61-minute, 55-mile police chase. During the car chase, the men attempted to kill and ambush police officers and used a third hostage as a human shield.

Law enforcement disabled and fired at the stolen Ford Expedition SUV at the intersection of Thornton Road and Otto Drive while one of the hostages, Misty Holt-Singh, was still inside the vehicle. Holt-Singh had stopped at the bank with her 12-year-old daughter Mia when she was abducted. According to reports, Holt-Singh’s husband received a text from Mia saying “they took mom.” Holt-Singh died after being shot 10 times by Stockton police officers.

Some have questioned the actions by law enforcement to fire into a vehicle containing hostages. Critics of the police force have said that the officers should have fallen back and pursued the vehicle at a safer distance.

Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones held a press conference on Monday, Aug. 11, to defend the law enforcement’s use of lethal force, saying that under the circumstances of three armed suspects shooting randomly at bystanders, homes and police officers along Thornton Road, law enforcement handled the situation appropriately.

A family member of one of the deceased men defended the police.

“We believe that given the circumstances the department behaved in a manner that was appropriate,” said Gregory Jon Martinez in an interview with KCRA. Martinez is one of the suspect’s [Alex Gregory Martinez] father.

Within minutes of the robbery, news of the abduction and the high-speed car chase spread over social media and was covered by numerous news stations.

“I found out through the app Police Scanner 3 and followed the chase through that,” sophomore Sonia Sandhu said.

“Misty Holt-Singh [the 41-year-old deceased hostage] was my father’s childhood friend. I did not know about her death or that she even lived in the same neighborhood as us, but we came over and paid our respects to the Holt-Singh family.”

Two of the suspects — 27-year-old Alex Gregory Martinez and 30-year-old Gilbert Renteria Jr. — died at the scene and the third suspect — 19-year-old Jaime Ramos — is charged with 35 accounts of homicide, kidnapping, attempted murder and robbery and is now awaiting trial at the San Joaquin County Jail. Ramos qualifies for a potential death sentence with enhancements attached to the murder charges. A fourth suspect still remains at large, causing concern among both parents and students.

“I thought that the shooting story was some messed-up hoax when my mom told me about it,” senior Tony Tran said.
“Because of my mom’s overprotective personality, she bought a whole new alarm system.”

Senior Jackie Martinez was Ramos’s temporary dance partner in a 2009 quinciñera of a mutual friend.

“He was really nice to me and I am still shocked because he is so young,” Martinez said. “I cannot believe that he would have done this on his own. The older ones probably influenced and pushed him to do it by promising him that they would get a lot of money if he went through with it.”

Police officials, the FBI and Bank of the West are now offering a $50,000 reward for information on the fourth suspect who was caught on surveillance video footage dropping off the three men at the bank in a dark-colored Buick sedan with tinted black windows.

“I never felt completely safe in Stockton,” senior Varun Arora said. “but now I feel like Stockton is becoming what it has been known for — ghetto and dangerous.”