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Jul 17, 2014|
At least three people were shot to death and three others were wounded on Wednesday after a violent bank robbery and high-speed chase in the US state of California.
The violence began when three people robbed a Bank of the West branch in Stockton, California and took three women hostage, one of them a bank customer and the other two bank employees, police said.
The robbers then stole a bank employee's vehicle and led dozens of police cars on a high-speed chase that lasted about 45 minutes, Stockton police Officer Joe Silva said.
During the chase, the two hostages who were bank employees were thrown out of the vehicle. One suffered a gunshot wound and the other had a grazing bullet wound. Both are at the hospital to get treatment for their injuries and are expected to survive.
The pursuit continued as the suspects fired with semi-automatic weapons from the vehicle. More than a dozen police cars and a number of homes along the robbers' path were sprayed with gunshots, Police Chief Eric Jones told a news conference late Wednesday.
"It was such a chaotic ... fluid situation, really one of the most dangerous, tense situations that a police officer could go through," Jones said. "There was a lot on the line and the officers responded appropriately," he said.
When the vehicle became disabled at a street intersection, officers exchanged gunfire with the gunmen. Witnesses said the shootout that brought the episode to a close looked like a war.
Two of the suspects were killed in the gun battle and the third suspect was wounded. The third hostage -- the bank customer -- was found dead inside of the vehicle due to gunfire. Police say she was used as a human shield during the fire fight, but it is unclear who shot her.
The US averages 87 gun deaths each day as a function of gun violence, with an average of 183 injuries. Critics blame the notoriously liberal gun control laws in the United States for the high rate of gun violence in the country.