DAVIS — Natalie Corona was a rising star in her police department with a sparkling smile and a huge heart who had followed in her father’s footsteps and became an officer, fulfilling a lifelong dream just a few months ago when her dad pinned the badge on her uniform.
On Friday, her father and a stunned community mourned the 22-year-old who was shot and killed on duty while responding to a multi-vehicle crash in the small college town.
“She’s the cop that any community would want,” said Lt. Paul Doroshov, a spokesman for the Davis Police Department. “Everybody who met her liked her.”
The shooter opened fire as Corona was investigating a three-car crash. The city is a college town that is home to the University of California, Davis. There has not been a fatal police shooting there in nearly 60 years.
The suspect, who has not been identified, was later found dead inside a home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound following a short standoff with officers, the Davis Police Department said Friday.
Police have not determined what prompted the attack, which occurred in a residential neighborhood up the street from a park that hosts a weekend farmer’s market. Residents placed flowers at a growing memorial outside the police department Friday, where flags flew at half-staff.
Corona’s colleagues, family and friends mourned a vibrant life that was cut short.
“She was the best of us,” said Davis officer Mike Yu, after placing a “Blue Lives Matter” flag at the crime scene, about a mile from the police station.
As the eldest of four daughters, Corona grew up dreaming of becoming a law enforcement officer like her father, said her cousin, Emily Gomez, 26.
“I don’t remember her talking about anything else than wanting to become an officer,” said Gomez, who said her cousin was an athletic star in high school, excelling in volleyball, basketball and track. She grew up in a tight-knit family in the Northern California town of Arbuckle. The family had emigrated from Mexico a few generations ago and had become established members of their community.
Corona’s father, Jose Merced Corona, spent 26 years as a Colusa County Sheriff’s sergeant before retiring and getting elected to the county’s Board of Supervisors last November. Her mother is a first-grade teacher, and two cousins are also in law enforcement, Gomez said.
Corona graduated from the Sacramento Police Academy last July and completed her training in December just before Christmas, officials said.