- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A California bank robber who used a hostage as a human shield in a deadly shootout with police following the heist and a wild car chase was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison during an emotional hearing.

Jaime Ramos, 22, pleaded guilty last year in a deal with prosecutors to avoid a possible death sentence at trial. The 2014 robbery and chase through Stockton, 80 miles inland from San Francisco, ended in the deaths of two other suspects and Misty Holt-Singh, a 41-year-old wife, mother of two and bank customer who was taken hostage.

Ramos didn’t speak in court, but Holt-Singh’s mother, Karen Farmer, stood to say a few words, according to Sacramento news station KCRA-TV.

“My daughter was taken from me,” she said, breaking down in tears. “My life will never be the same without my Misty.”

Two other women who were taken hostage but survived did not to attend the sentencing, finding it too difficult emotionally, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said. The plea deal avoids a stressful trial where they would have to relive the horror by testifying, he said.

“It makes sure that Ramos never sees the light of day again,” the prosecutor said.

In court, Holt-Singh’s husband, Paul Singh, revisited his last conversation with his wife that day and later learning she had been killed. He talked about the loss his daughter feels each day.

“They deprived my daughter of her mother,” Singh said. “She has no one to tell her how to do her hair, put on her makeup or get ready for her first dance.”

In the midday heist, the three armed men stormed into a Bank of the West branch, then fled with their three hostages in an SUV owned by one of the bank employees.

The two surviving women were injured when they were thrown from the moving vehicle or jumped out during a chase lasting nearly an hour. In the shootout, officers fired roughly 600 bullets into the vehicle - 10 striking Holt-Singh as Ramos held her as a human shield, police have said.

Separate from the criminal case, Holt-Singh’s family and the two surviving hostages have sued the Stockton Police Department and 32 officers involved in the shooting. City spokeswoman Connie Cochran said the three lawsuits are still pending.

The police department commissioned a review, finding that the shots the officers fired at the end of the pursuit were excessive and unnecessary.

Ramos pleaded guilty to murder, carjacking and attempted murder of a police officer late last year. His defense attorney, Jonathan Fattarsi, did not respond to requests for comment by The Associated Press.

A second man, Pablo Ruvalcaba, also pleaded guilty to Holt-Singh’s killing, accepting a prison sentence of 25 years to life. The 23-year-old was accused of driving the three robbers to the bank.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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