Wit­ness: Slain Calif. of­fi­cer shot by by­stander

Star-Telegram - - Obituaries - BY SAM STAN­TON, RYAN SABALOW AND MOLLY SUL­LI­VAN The Sacra­mento Bee

A 22-year-old po­lice of­fi­cer shot to death Thurs­day night ap­par­ently was am­bushed by a gun­man as she was sort­ing out the after-ef­fects of a mi­nor, three-car col­li­sion in this quiet North­ern Cal­i­for­nia col­lege town.

Natalie Corona, who re­ceived her badge with the Davis Po­lice De­part­ment in Au­gust and was cer­ti­fied just be­fore Christ­mas to go on pa­trol with­out a part­ner, died after be­ing shot by an as­sailant who walked up to her and opened fire just be­fore 7 p.m., then be­gan walk­ing along a down­town street ran­domly fir­ing at pedes­tri­ans, ac­cord­ing to an eye­wit­ness.

The gun­man was later found dead in­side a home where he ap­par­ently shot him­self after of­fi­cers sur­rounded the house not far from the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, cam­pus, po­lice said.

By mid-af­ter­noon Fri­day, au­thor­i­ties in the town 15 miles west of Sacra­mento said they had iden­ti­fied the gun­man but were not ready to dis­close his name.

Christian Pas­cual, 25, a UC Davis grad­u­ate, wit­nessed the shoot­ing and said the in­ci­dent be­gan as he was driv­ing and an­other ve­hi­cle hit his car, then drove it into a third car.

The mo­torists got out of their ve­hi­cles to ex­change in­for­ma­tion and Corona ar­rived min­utes later and be­gan talk­ing to the driv­ers.

“I gave her my li­cense and she was just about to give it to me,” Pas­cual said. “That’s when I heard the shots.”

He said the shots came from di­rectly be­hind him, with the gun­man fir­ing over his right shoul­der so close to his ear that he was suf­fer­ing from hear­ing loss Fri­day morn­ing.

“The per­son was be­hind me and all of a sud­den I heard gun­shots,” he said.

Pas­cual said he in­stinc­tively ducked down.

“When I looked up and I saw the of­fi­cer on the ground he was al­ready walk­ing due west to­ward C Street, like just shoot­ing at what looked like ran­dom peo­ple to me,” Pas­cual said, adding that he ran down the street and hid in bushes for safety.

An­other wit­ness told po­lice that she had been walk­ing about 15 feet from the shooter when she saw him open fire.

Corona was the first Davis po­lice of­fi­cer to die in the line of duty since 1959, and fam­ily mem­bers and friends de­scribed her as want­ing to de­vote her life to po­lice work.

“She had a ring, black with blue cen­ter, like the blue line,” said Tessa Corona, Natalie’s cousinin-law. “She wore it on her ring fin­ger be­cause ‘I’m mar­ried to the job’ she would say.”

Her fa­ther, Merced Corona, spent 26 years as a sher­iff’s deputy in nearby Co­lusa County and pinned the badge on her daugh­ter’s uni­form when she was sworn in as an of­fi­cer in Au­gust.

“She al­ways wanted to fol­low in her dad’s foot­steps,” said Lyssa Gomez, a re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer who is Natalie Corona’s cousin. “She looked up to him.”

Corona started vol­un­teer­ing as a Davis com­mu­nity ser­vice of­fi­cer after grad­u­at­ing in 2014 in Arbuckle, a ru­ral farm town 40 miles north­west of Davis where much of her fam­ily still lives. Corona’s fa­ther is well known from his years as a deputy and his elec­tion in June as a county su­per­vi­sor.

Davis Po­lice Chief Dar­ren Py­tel de­scribed his po­lice force as “ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated” by her slay­ing, and res­i­dents of Arbuckle and nearby com­mu­ni­ties said they were in shock at the news.

Flags in the town and else­where in Cal­i­for­nia were fly­ing at half-staff on or­ders from Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som, and many of the 3,000 res­i­dents of Arbuckle were ex­pected to trek to Davis on Saturday for a can­dle­light vigil in Corona’s honor.

“Ev­ery­body will be there,” said Susie McCul­lough, owner of the Sauced food truck in Arbuckle. “You’re dealing with a very small town, a very small, close fam­ily town where ev­ery­body sticks to­gether or is re­lated to each other.”

Wil­liams Pi­o­neer Re­view

Natalie Corona, who re­ceived her badge with the Davis Po­lice De­part­ment in Au­gust, was shot and killed at a car crash scene when a by­stander sud­denly opened fire at close range.

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