Well over 1,000 mourners turned out at a candlelight vigil Saturday night for Davis police Officer Natalie Corona, who was gunned down two days earlier after responding to a traffic collision.
The evening was punctuated by speeches delivered by local politicians, musical performances and an appearance by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
“We are all proud residents tonight of the city of Davis,” Steinberg said, adding that Corona embodied “the best of all of our communities.”
Davis Mayor Brett Lee thanked the community for joining together for the vigil and its outpouring of support since Thursday’s brazen attack on the 22-year-old officer.
“What brings us together is a really, really sad incident and one gathering is not going to change that,” he said. “But just seeing you all here does make a difference.”
After learning of Corona’s death, event organizer Stephanie Teague said she decided to host the vigil to bring the grieving community together while supporting Corona’s family.
“Even just walking around Davis, it’s a whole other world,” Teague said. “People are in a fog. You can tell that there’s a weight on everybody in town.”
Several members of the Davis police force came up to share stories from their time with Corona.
Officer Pheng Ly described a time when Corona had bought him a meal despite his protestations, and he promised to buy her a meal to repay her. He said he never got the chance.
“Her loss will forever change the Davis Police Department, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Ly said.
Officer Keirith Briesenick said one of the last calls she went on with Corona involved a victim of the Camp Fire. Briesenick said Corona had kept in touch with the victim and later went out of her way to replace supplies lost in the fire.
“We went back to that house, knocked on the door, and out of the goodness of her heart, delivered a whole Santa bag full of presents and packages for a fire victim, just on her own,” Briesenick said. “She hadn’t asked anybody about it, she just did it.”
Davis police Chief Darren Pytel announced that Corona’s memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the ARC building at UC Davis and will be open to the public.
Mariah Diaz, a friend of Corona’s, said she had spent the night with her the night before she was killed. They stayed up until 4:30 a.m. talking, Diaz said. After Diaz shared that her biggest fear was being alone, Corona assured Diaz that she would never be.
“I think that’s why all of you are here today. That’s her telling me that I’m not alone, that I have all of you,” Diaz said.
Representatives from local branches of the 100 Club, a nonprofit that provides financial support to families of killed or seriously injured law enforcement and firefighters, presented Corona’s family with $20,000.
Several students from UC Davis, which was ordered to shelter-in-place during Friday’s shooting, spoke at the vigil, including two friends of Corona’s.
Eddie Saavedra and Gustavo Chavez said they had grown up with Corona in her hometown of Arbuckle.
“She always lit up the room, any room she came in,” Saavedra said.
Once in Davis, Gustavo said, Corona had shown up on-duty at a house party he was at.
“Even when you’re getting in trouble, about to get a citation, she doesn’t make you feel bad about it,” Chavez said. “All I can say is that Natalie was truly a great person.”
Chris and Lauren Snow, longtime Davis residents, came to the vigil bearing large red-and-blue-lined American flags over their shoulders, which honor both law enforcement and first responders, they said.
When Chris heard about the shooting around 10:30 the night of the shooting, he went out to the hospital where Corona was being treated with his flag.
He said he met Corona’s father there, and he and Lauren wanted to support her family.
“It’s the least we could do to come out here and show the support for the community,” Chris Snow said. “Being here for the last 48 years, you don’t ever think anything like this is going to happen in our town.”
Donations to the Corona family can be made through the 100 Club here.