DAVIS, Calif. (KCRA) —
New details are coming to light in the shooting death of a Davis police officer and an hourslong manhunt for the suspect.
Officer Natalie Corona was ambushed Thursday night while responding to a three-vehicle crash, Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said.
The suspect was found dead in a downtown Davis home with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Officials did not publicly identify the shooting suspect Friday. They did, however, provide new details on how the shooting and manhunt for the suspect unfolded Thursday night.
SUSPECT OPENS FIRE
As Corona was responding to the crash around 6:45 p.m. on Fifth Street between C and D streets, the suspect rode up to the scene on his bicycle, Pytel said. Witnesses reported that the suspect stayed in the shadows as Corona processed the crash scene.
While the 22-year-old officer was standing between two of the wrecked vehicles, the suspect shot Corona. Pytel said she then fell to the ground.
The suspect then continued to shoot at Corona and “unloaded a magazine,” hitting her multiple times, Pytel said.
“This clearly looks like an ambush,” Pytel said.
The suspect reloaded the gun, a semi-automatic pistol, and started shooting in another direction. Pytel said several bullets hit firetruck and some bullets went across the street. At least one house was hit, and so was a bus that was going by.
Pytel said a person reported that a backpack they were wearing was also hit.
“Nobody else was injured, other than Officer Corona,” Pytel said.
The suspect reloaded again and went after the fire crews who initially responded to the crash. Pytel said a firefighter saw the suspect coming and ran.
“The suspect shot toward the firefighter,” Pytel said. “One round hit him in the boot. He was not injured.”
As the firefighter continued to run, the suspect then ran from the scene.
MANHUNT IN DOWNTOWN DAVIS
Pytel said the suspect ran south on C Street, circled the block and then met his roommate at a home on the corner of E and Fifth streets.
“(He) really didn’t show any signs that he had just been involved in this incident,” Pytel said. “Spoke to the roommate for a period of time and actually stayed outside and was watching what was going on.”
Meanwhile, law enforcement from across the region responded. Officers shut down roadways as they searched for the suspect. UC Davis officials issued a “shelter in place” warning for the campus.
Around 10 p.m. Thursday, police told media that they had a possible lead in the case.
Pytel said Friday the suspect had left behind a backpack, which was pointed out by a witness and allowed police to track the suspect to the home.
Officers set up a perimeter around the home, where the man had barricaded himself inside.
At one point, the suspect walked outside wearing a bulletproof vest and then went back inside. When he walked out a second time, he was armed and wearing the vest, Pytel said. The suspect again went back inside, put a couch in front of the door and refused to come outside.
Officers later heard a gunshot, Pytel said. A robot equipped with a camera was then sent into the house and found the suspect’s body.
Before 1 a.m. Friday, officers entered the home and found the suspect had died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Davis police said the suspect’s identity will be released by the Yolo County Coroner’s Office. The coroner is in the middle of the investigation.
“The case is currently under investigation, and there’s an active investigation going on,” Pytel said. “At this point, we’ve turned over the criminal investigation to the Sacramento (County) Sheriff’s Department. They told us that they would take the lead, and we’re allowing that to happen.”
The last time the Davis Police Department lost an officer was in 1959, Pytel said.
Corona started at the Davis Police Department in 2016 as a part-time employee. She had finished the academy in July and completed the field training just before Christmas.
“I can tell you that I haven’t seen anyone work harder in a part-time capacity and be more motivated to be a police officer than Natalie,” Pytel said.
Corona was out on her own for only several weeks before the shooting. She is survived by her parents and her sister.
Her father, Merced Corona, is a retired Colusa County sheriff’s sergeant.
“She would always call me brother cop,” Merced Corona recalled Friday. “And I would say, ‘No, Nat, you can’t call me brother cop. ‘Cause you … don’t have that right yet. You can’t call me that yet. After she graduated, she said, ‘OK, Dad, can I call you brother cop now?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, now you can.’ And she just smiled and gave me big a hug. Proud moment.”
“I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family,” Davis Mayor Brett Lee said, “and express our thanks to the brave men and women who work day in and day out who protect our city.”
Natalie Corona’s body was escorted from the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento to the Yolo County Coroner’s Office in Woodland in a procession early Friday morning.
Law enforcement and first responders lined multiple overpasses along Interstate 5 to honor the slain officer.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement Friday regarding Corona’s death that reads in part:
“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.”
Flags will be flown at half-staff in honor of Corona.