DAVIS, Calif. — A young Natalie Corona would run around the house in police gear and loved watching the show “Cops.” She always knew she wanted to be a police officer, her sister said Friday.
Even before Corona joined the force a few months ago, she posted a Facebook tribute to the men and women who serve and who have died in the line of duty. She didn’t know then how much it would touch the world, her father said.
On Friday, family members, friends and thousands of officers from across the country packed into a memorial service to honor the 22-year-old California rookie who was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.
Uniformed officers, hats in their white-gloved hands, filled about 8,000 seats at an indoor arena at the University of California, Davis, and overflowed into the aisles. Officers from as far as New York, Chicago and Boston came to honor the young policewoman killed last week in this Northern California college town.
Corona’s slaying has shocked Davis, which prides itself on being a safe, family-friendly community anchored by one of the state’s top universities. The last time a police officer died in the line of duty in Davis was in 1959.
Officers lined walkways on the campus and saluted as family members followed Corona’s casket into the 90-minute service.
Colleagues recalled Corona’s vibrant smile, her enthusiasm, compassion, dedication and a lifelong dream she had of joining law enforcement like her father, who spent 26 years as a Colusa County sheriff’s deputy.
“It was truly in her blood,” Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said. “I placed a bet that one day she’d be the police chief. I know what it takes, and she had it.”
Looking to her parents in the front row, Pytel said they had raised “an incredible daughter.” He apologized to Merced and Lupe Corona for the shooting that ended her life on Jan. 10.
Corona graduated from the Sacramento Police Academy in July and completed her field training in December. She was assigned to patrol on her own just weeks ago.
On the evening of Jan. 10, there was no apparent danger when Corona responded solo to a three-car crash in downtown Davis, near the university. But as Corona talked to the drivers, gunfire erupted.
Police say Kevin Douglas Limbaugh, 48, was not involved in the crash but rode up on a bicycle and opened fire on Corona without warning. He hit her in the neck and fired more shots as she lay on the ground, reloading at least twice as he fired at passing vehicles, narrowly avoiding wounding others before he walked home.