Slay­ing of Davis of­fi­cer leaves re­gion stunned

The Fresno Bee - - Front Page - BY SAM STAN­TON, RYAN SABALOW AND MOLLY SUL­LI­VAN

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 midafter­noon 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.

“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 he ran down the street and hid in bushes for safety.

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

The woman, who was up­set and did not want to be named, ar­rived at Davis po­lice head­quar­ters Fri­day af­ter­noon ac­com­pa­nied by two friends to re­port that she had found a bul­let in­side the back­pack she was wear­ing Thurs­day night.

Davis po­lice turned the shoot­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion over to the Sacra­mento County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment, which by Fri­day morn­ing had 14 homi­cide de­tec­tives and crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tors at the scene of Corona’s slay­ing and the home where the gun­man ap­par­ently shot him­self.

Sher­iff’s Sgt. Shaun Hamp­ton said Sacra­mento was called in to help be­cause the depart­ment is much larger than the 61-mem­ber Davis force and be­cause of its ex­pe­ri­ence with of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we’re no strangers to of­fi­cers get­ting killed in the line of duty,” Hamp­ton said, re­fer­ring to the fact that three Sacra­mento deputies have been shot to death on duty since 2014.

FIRST SINCE 1959

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 cousin-in-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 lives. Corona’s fa­ther is well known from his years as a deputy and his elec­tion in June as a county su­per­vi­sor.

Corona con­tin­ued to work for the Davis po­lice even af­ter fund­ing for her po­si­tion ran out, Tessa Corona said, jug­gling full-time shifts at a lo­cal fruit stand and an­other job as a wait­ress at Co­lusa Casino while she was vol­un­teer­ing and go­ing to school.

She had re­cently moved back in with her fam­ily to save money and planned to fin­ish her de­gree at Sacra­mento State.

“She was so tired and ex­hausted, but she was ded­i­cated,” Tessa Corona said. “There’s no way she was go­ing to give up vol­un­teer­ing at Davis PD. I even told her she was crazy. There was noth­ing else she wanted to do.”

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.

“We’ve all had our tears this morn­ing and last night,” said Ar­buckle res­i­dent Re­becca Tay­lor, 55. “It hasn’t stopped.”

Flags in the town and else­where in Cal­i­for­nia were fly­ing at half-staff on or­ders of 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.”

Mc­Cul­lough said Corona was at a gath­er­ing at her home on Christ­mas Eve when dis­cus­sions of the dan­gers of po­lice work came up.

“I said, ‘Natalie aren’t you afraid to be out there by your­self?’ ” Mc­Cul­lough said. “She said, ‘No, there’s four beats in Davis. I al­ways have an of­fi­cer be­hind me.’

“She goes, ‘No, I’m not afraid.’ Then, here a week later, she’s gunned down. It’s sense­less. She’s re­spond­ing to a three-car ac­ci­dent and she gets taken down for no rea­son. It’s just dev­as­tat­ing. Com­pletely dev­as­tat­ing.”

RICH PE­DRON­CELLI AP

Mourn­ers place flow­ers at a me­mo­rial out­side the Davis Po­lice Depart­ment in honor of slain Of­fi­cer Natalie Corona on Fri­day.

Natalie Corona

Wil­liams Pi­o­neer Re­view

Merced Corona pins a Davis po­lice badge on the uni­form of daugh­ter Natalie Corona at a swear­ing-in cer­e­mony in Davis on Aug. 2.

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