Rookie woman cop, 22, killed in California

Natalie Corona, 22, had been only on the police force a few weeks when she was shot and killed.
Natalie Corona, 22, had been only on the police force a few weeks when she was shot and killed.

The small US college town of Davis, California is mourning a 22-year-old woman police officer shot and killed while responding to a routine car crash.

Natalie Corona, who had only been on the job for a few weeks, was described as a rising star in her police department with a sparkling smile and a huge heart.

She 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.

"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."

Investigators believe that Corona was ambushed by a gunman on a bicycle who later shot and killed himself. They they haven't a determined the motive for his actions.

The shooter rode up on a bicycle and, without warning, opened fire as Corona was investigating a three-car crash in the town that is home to the University of California in Davis, where there has not been a fatal police shooting in nearly 60 years. She was struck in the neck.

"This looked clearly to us like am ambush," Police Chief Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said Friday evening.

At least two witnesses avoided injury. A firefighter who ran away as the gunman reloaded was hit, but the bullet didn't penetrate his boot. A woman carrying a backpack found a bullet lodged in her textbook.

After unloading gunshots, the suspect went to his home nearby and chatted with his roommate without "showing any sign he was involved in the incident," Pytel said.

A backpack dropped at the crime scene led officers to identify the gunman. There was a short standoff outside his residence, before the man went back inside and a gun on himself, Pytel said.

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.

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.

Corona graduated from the Sacramento Police Academy last July and completed her training in December just before Christmas, officials said.

"She was very proud," her father told Fox40-TV, choking back tears as he spoke about how much she loved her job.

"She would come home, she would be beaming," her father said, his voice quivering. "She died doing what she wanted to do, what she loved."

Australian Associated Press