Crime & Justice

Murder charges filed in Stockton bank robbery

This Wednesday July 16, 2014 image provided by the Stockton Police Department shows a closed sign on a Stockton bank after a robbery.
This Wednesday July 16, 2014 image provided by the Stockton Police Department shows a closed sign on a Stockton bank after a robbery.
Stockton Police Department/AP

A 19-year-old California man was charged Monday with three counts of murder in the deaths of a hostage and two accomplices, and 22 counts of attempted murder of police officers in a bank robbery and running gun battle.

A judge read a total of 35 felony counts to defendant Jaime Ramos stemming from the robbery on Wednesday at a Bank of the West in Stockton.

The charges, including kidnapping, robbery and being a gang member, could make Ramos eligible for the death sentence if convicted.

Ramos sat quietly in court holding a copy of the criminal complaint and nodded his head when San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson asked if Ramos understood his rights.

Ramos did not enter a plea and the judge ordered him back to court on Aug. 18. Ramos remains in jail with no bail set.

Deputy Public Defender Jonathan Fattarsi, who represents Ramos, said after the hearing that he had only spoken briefly with his client and did not elaborate.

After the brief hearing, Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said more charges might be filed.

"The investigation continues," Himelblau said. "There might be a fourth person we're interested in. Four people could turn into five."

Police say three armed men entered a Bank of the West and took three women, two bank employees and a customer hostage. The pursuit and shootout followed when the robbers fled with the hostages in an SUV owned by one of the employees.

Police say Ramos used 41-year-old Misty Holt-Singh as a human shield. She died in the incident.

Two other women were injured but survived after being thrown from the moving vehicle or jumping out.

The two slain bank robbers have been identified as 27-year-old Alex Gregory Martinez and 30-year-old Gilbert Renteria Jr.

Investigators have linked Martinez to a Jan. 31 robbery at the same bank branch through surveillance video, witness statements and comparable circumstances.

Police have recovered a dark-colored Buick sedan seen on video dropping off the suspects in last week's robbery. The car had no license plates and was found abandoned in a neighborhood about a 10-minute drive from the bank. The driver is the subject of an active search, police said.

Relatives have said they believe police acted appropriately by engaging the men in a gunbattle, but they struggle to understand what the men were thinking.

Holt-Singh left behind a husband and two children, 12 and 19.