Three people have been killed after a bank robbery ended in a high-speed chase and gunfight with police.

Witnesses said three men armed with AK-47 rifles raided a bank in Stockton, California, and then left with three women hostages.

They drove off in the bank manager's blue Ford Explorer and were quickly pursued by police.

Onlooker Jose Maldonado said: "Three guys had three guns and had the guns to the hostages' heads.

"They were petrified. Their faces were white. They were so scared.

"They got in the car, and the cops surrounded the car and they couldn't shoot at them because they were so close to the hostages."

During the car chase, the suspects opened fire on officers, hitting several of their vehicles and nearby houses, said Stockton Police Department Officer Joe Silva.

One hostage was shot and pushed from the speeding SUV, he said.

A second was also pushed out and may have been grazed by a bullet.

The pursuit ended near Thornton Road with a gunfight with police, which was captured on mobile phone video.

One hostage was shot dead and another injured during the incident.

Two suspects were killed and one injured. No officers were hurt.