Editor’s note: The following is Jeff Tilton’s Facebook post about the Bank of the West hostage situation in Stockton on Wednesday.
UPDATE: Struggling after discovering the hostage victim is my friend, Misty Holt-Singh. Difficult to understand. Difficult to comprehend. Difficult to accept. I do know this: Misty Holt-Singh is my hero.
I am often asked who my idol was in sports while growing up and I always respond, “I didn’t have any; they all fall from grace.”
Today, I saw my first hero. Make that, I saw my first heroes.
This afternoon seemed like any other during this hectic time in my life: juggling my employment priority with my campaign to be the next San Joaquin County superintendent; and, now my step-daughter struggling to stay alive thanks to cancer, with my wife, Shalice, at her side a few states away in Utah.
After a medical appointment in Stockton and on my way to a meeting at the Woodbridge Crossing, I stopped to take down some campaign signs that the “campaign sign company” failed to remove at a 7-Eleven store on Pacific Avenue in Stockton. Signs down, I decided to go into the store and get a Slurpee -— my first Slurpee in who knows how long.
Once I came outside the 7-Eleven store, I noticed Stockton Police Department vehicles surrounding the Bank of the West across the street on Pacific Avenue. Oh well, another Stockton crime, I thought.
Then I heard the officers yell with weapons drawn, “get on the ground,” but the person of interest did not respond. In fact, he had a hostage! (Suddenly, this situation became personal, since the mother of my boys, Frances Gil Dodson, worked several years at Delta National Bank in Manteca and I always feared something like this would happen any day she went to work.) The person of interest then went back inside the Bank of the West and minutes after, he and two more “robbers” walked outside, each with hostages. Not good. Obviously the hostages were bank employees, in my mind. Helpless, I could do nothing. It was clear they ordered the group of hostages into a vehicle owned by one of the hostages to drive away.
Once they entered the Ford Explorer, a Stockton Police Officer was right in front of the vehicle and pointed his rifle into the windshield. On my insides, I am saying, “shoot the bastards!” But I knew the officer was doing the right thing. He did not shoot. Tough spot to be in.
Stockton PD officers allowed the vehicle to leave the Bank of the West parking lot and my gut knew this situation was not going to end well. On my way to Woodbridge Crossing up Thornton Road, I came across one of the hostages in the middle of the road who appeared to have been tossed from the vehicle after being shot, as her legs were bloody and she was rolling in the street in pain and shock. Fortunately, a Stockton PD officer was with her.
Several Stockton PD were racing up Thornton Road. Soon Stockton Unified School District Police were involved. I believed they, and any other agency, would take care of the situation.
After my meeting in Woodbridge, I checked the status of the incident and discovered that one of the punks was killed and, unfortunately, as it appears, one of the hostages was killed. So unnecessary. So unnecessary. There are families ailing this evening because of the choices of three young men who decided to rob the Bank of the West on Hammer and Pacific in Stockton.
After a few hours of reflection, this could have been much worse, I believe. Much worse. But I have to go back to what I saw from Stockton PD at the beginning. One woman officer took risks and tried to get as close as she could to the bank’s entrance until her partner signaled for her to retreat for safety. Either she or the hostage could have been executed in the parking lot. And there was the one officer, who boldly and courageously stood in front of the Ford Explorer in the Bank of the West parking lot with his rifle pointing into the vehicle’s windshield as it was leaving the parking lot. And, the officer did not fire the weapon. Because he did not fire his weapon, I have to believe that he saved the lives of hostages.
My heart aches for what appears to be the hostage who lost her life.
I have to believe that the everlasting image of the officer who had his rifle pointed into the windshield of the Ford Explorer but did not fire his weapon saved lives. He and the other first responders at the Bank of Stockton this afternoon: My heroes.