The gunman who fatally shot a Davis police officer ambushed her while she took down a routine accident report, rolling up on a bicycle and waiting in the shadows before opening fire, Police Chief Darren Pytel said Friday.
After firing at Officer Natalie Corona, 22, once, causing her to fall, the gunman continued to shoot her multiple times and expended all the rounds in the weapon, Pytel said.
“This clearly to us looks like an ambush,” he said Friday evening during a news conference at the Davis Police Department.
Corona was wearing a bulletproof vest Thursday evening when she responded to a three-vehicle collision on one of the main thoroughfares through the college town. Pytel said that Corona was shot in the neck but that he has yet to get a more detailed report of her injuries from the Yolo County coroner’s office.
“This was basically just a routine traffic collision,” Pytel said. “We have witnesses who are reporting that the suspect rode up on a bicycle and was in some shadows on the sidewalk, and Officer Corona was in the street and between two vehicles involved in the collision, and the suspect just basically opened fire.”
After shooting Corona, the gunman reloaded and began shooting in another direction, hitting a firetruck, a house, a bus and a backpack being worn by a person. After reloading a second time, the gunman approached a fire rescue squad, prompting a firefighter to run. The suspect fired, and a bullet struck the firefighter’s boot, Pytel said.
No one besides Corona was injured.
The shooting, which occurred just a few blocks from UC Davis, set off a massive response, with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies converging on this small city west of Sacramento. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department is the lead investigative agency.
Corona started at the Davis Police Department as a part-time employee in 2016, when she was a junior college student. The daughter of a retired Colusa County sheriff’s deputy, Corona finished her training in December and had been on the job for a few weeks.
“This has been just absolutely devastating to the Davis Police Department,” said Pytel, who briefed officers about the shooting two hours earlier.
“She had a personality that was just energizing. And it didn’t matter who it was in the department. It didn’t matter whether they were the janitors that take care of the building for us or me as the police chief and everyone in between … she was the most friendly, outgoing and just wanted to be everyone’s friend. And was.”
Pytel said that after the shooting, the gunman fled, circling the area, before returning to his apartment, which was within shooting range of the crime scene. He met up with a roommate, who was unaware of what had happened, and watched as police and emergency crews responded.
Investigators found the suspect’s backpack at the crime scene and surrounded his apartment, the chief said. The gunman barricaded himself inside, placing a couch against the front door.
Pytel said police heard a gunshot, which they determined was the gunman shooting himself in the head. They found his body after breaching the apartment with a robot. The roommate was unharmed and was being questioned by police.
Pytel said the gunman had had a few minor brushes with authorities, including a case in which he reported being a victim of a crime. But there was nothing to indicate he had any grudge against the police or Corona, he said. Authorities have not released his name.
Pytel said investigators have a “significant amount of video” from the camera inside Corona’s patrol car. She was also wearing a body camera, he said.
“We’re speculating she never even saw him,” Pytel said.