A 19 year-old man in California was charged this week with three federal counts of murder stemming from the deaths of a hostage and two accomplices, after a bank robbery and running gun battle.
The man also was charged with 22 counts of attempted murder of police officers. The judge read a total of 35 federal felony counts to Jaime Ramos involving a Bank of the West Branch in Stockton, California.
The federal charges included kidnapping and robbery, and could make the man eligible for a death sentence if he is convicted. He also was charged with belonging to a gang, evading police and carjacking.
It is not clear who fired the deadly shots in the incident, but the law in California allows murder charges to be brought against anyone who is involved in crimes where a death occurs.
The deputy district attorney on the case will not decide if the death penalty will be sought until later in the legal process. The federal sentencing guidelines allow for the death penalty in this type of case, and while the death penalty is rare in California, it is rare.
Ramos sat in court quietly and held a copy of the complaint against him and nodded when he was asked by the judge if he understood his legal rights.
Ramos declined to enter a plea and the judge stated that he must come back to court on Aug. 18.
His public defender stated after the legal hearing that he only had spoken with his client for a few minutes and did not have any comments for the media.
After the hearing, the prosecutor stated that more charges could be filed. They noted that the investigation is continuing, and there could be another person involved in the case.
Police noted that three men with guns walked into the branch of the Bank of the West and took several people hostage, including three women, two employees and another customer. The shootout occurred when the robbers left the bank with the hostages in an SUV.
Police stated that Ramos used one of the hostages as a human shield. It was not clear during the early stages of the investigation when she was shot. But the police found her dead later in the SUV.
Two other people were hurt but survived after they were either thrown out of the car or jumped out.
The police stated that the two killed bank robbers were Alex Martinez and Gilbert Renteria.
Federal investigators have so far linked Martinez to another robbery in January at the exact same bank branch.
Police have found a video that showed a dark Buick sedan who dropped off the suspects at the bank. It had no plates on it and was abandoned in an area about 10 minutes from the bank. The driver of that vehicle is being sought.