DAVIS (CBS/AP) — A police officer who had been on the job only a few weeks was shot and killed by a suspect who opened fire as she was investigating a three-car crash near the campus of the University of California at Davis, authorities said.
The suspect, who has not been identified, was later found dead inside a Davis home about a block away from the crash with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Davis Police Department said.
Davis Police Department officials say 22-year-old Officer Natalie Corona was shot after responding to a traffic accident about 6:45 p.m. Thursday. Police said the shooting happened in the area of Fifth and “C” streets near downtown.
Evidence markers highlighted bullet holes in this Davis Police SUV — part of the ongoing investigation into what lead up to the shooting. The suspected gunman was not involved in the crash.
One of the drivers in the crash, Christian Pascual, 25, says the shooter fired from behind him and he didn’t believe it was someone involved in the crash.
Pascaul told The Sacramento Bee he got out of his car to exchange information with the other drivers when Corona arrived.
“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 he ducked and when he looked up Corona was on the ground.
Corona was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where she later died.
Police have not determined what prompted the attack.
“It was a routine call. It wasn’t anything that raised flags for us,” said Davis Police Lt. Paul Dorosov.
Following the shooting, police issued a citywide shelter in place order as officers from throughout the region searched for the suspect. Officers then spent hours trying to coax the suspect out of a home about a block from the shooting scene, using floodlights and commands on loudspeakers for him to emerge with his hands up.
At one point they sent in a robot and ignited flash bang grenades, The Bee reported.
Officials announced early Friday he had been found dead inside.
Corona, whose father spent 26 years as a Colusa County Sheriff’s deputy, graduated from the Sacramento Police Department’s training academy in July and completed her field training just before Christmas, officials said.
A photograph published by the Pioneer Review shows her father, Merced Corona, pinning her badge at her swearing-in ceremony in August.
An Aug. 2, 2018 photo provided by Williams Pioneer Review shows Merced Corona, left, pins his daughter Natalie Corona’s badge on her uniform during a swearing-in ceremony in Davis, Calif. Natalie Corona was shot and killed during a routine call Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Williams Pioneer Review via AP)Corona grew up dreaming of becoming a law enforcement officer like him, her cousin Emily Gomez told The Associated Press.
“I don’t remember her talking about anything else than wanting to become an officer,” Gomez, 26, said, “He prepared her to go to the (police) academy.”
Lyssa Nicole, who trained Corona at the police academy, said the officer loved helping people and protecting people.
“She had such a big heart,” Nicole said. “All she wanted to do was help people.”
Doroshov, said the agency hasn’t lost an officer in the line of duty since 1959 when officer Douglas Cantrill was killed.
“She was a rising star in the department,” Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said. “She just worked like you can’t believe.”
Before she entered the academy, the Davis Police Department ran out of funding for the paid position she had been in. She didn’t care; she showed up to work as a volunteer, Pytel said.
On Friday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement, which read in part, “Officer Corona was protecting her community from harm when she was tragically shot in the line of duty. Despite the valiant efforts of paramedics who rushed her to the hospital, and UC Davis Medical Center personnel, she succumbed to her injuries. We join all Californians in mourning the loss of this courageous officer and extend our deepest condolences to Officer Corona’s family, friends, and coworkers.”
Newsom also ordered flags at the State Capitol to be at half-staff.
On Friday, neighbors stopped by the shooting scene, including one woman who is studying to be a police officer herself.
“I have a child at home and it just makes me really…it doesn’t make me reconsider, but it really puts me on edge,” said criminal justice student Cynthia Ochoa.
She, like others, just wanted to pay their respects.
“When you choose this line of work, you know you’re getting into a dangerous situation. But you never expect this,” said neighbor Matt Fix.
Lt. Dorosov said the Davis Police Department was shaken by the death of their newest officer.
“We’re a small agency. It’s kind of like a family. We’re 60 sworn [officers], which is not big by California standards,” said Dorosov. “Everybody’s devastated. She just had an amazing personality and was a very positive person. I think everybody wanted to know her.”
Corona is the second officer killed in California in the past two and a half weeks.
Cpl. Ronil Singh, 33, of the Newman Police Department was shot to death Dec. 26 after he stopped a suspected drunk driver.
Gustavo Arriaga Perez, also 33, was charged with the murder. Authorities said Perez Arriaga was in the country illegally and was preparing to flee to Mexico when he was arrested. That killing rekindled a debate over California’s sanctuary law that limits cooperation by local officials with federal immigration authorities.
© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.