Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona was laid to rest in her hometown of Arbuckle on Friday, with her family priest comforting her grief-stricken family with the most fundamental belief of their Catholic faith – that life is everlasting.
Officer Corona, 22, was shot and killed on Jan. 10, 2019, when a gunman approached her from the shadows around 6:43 PM and opened fire while she was investigating a triple vehicle crash in Davis.
She was remembered at an emotional memorial at the University of California ARC Center, in Davis, attended by thousands, as the mournful wail of bagpipes signaled the arrival of her flag-draped coffin from a nearby white hearse, which later carried her to her final resting place.
“God himself placed Natalie to be on duty on that date, on that shift, at that hour, responding to that call for service,” said her father, Colusa County Supervisor Merced Corona, during her service. “He himself has called her into his presence.”
Law enforcement officers attended the service from across the country, but it was those who knew and worked with her who painted a picture of the kind of person Corona was: a woman who exuded energy, who had a passion for life, who loved law enforcement, who was well respected and mature beyond her years, who stood out among others, and who did everything asked and required of her during her short time as a police officer.
Her family, friends, and co-workers described Corona as someone who lived her life with purpose, touching everyone she came in contact with.
“To know her was to know greatness,” said Sgt. Eric Labbe, Corona’s supervisor.
Country music artist Billy Ray Cyrus paid his respects on Friday, opening the memorial with a moment of silence before singing “Some Gave All,” a song he originally wrote to honor Vietnam veterans. It is a song Cyrus has performed several times at the funerals of fallen police officers.
“Today, this is Natalie’s song,” Cyrus said. “This is for one special lady who represents a face of change. She’s a light in this world that won’t be forgotten.”
Corona, an Arbuckle native, was born in Woodland on July 26, 1996. She graduated from Pierce High School in 2014, after which she earned three associate degrees in administration of justice and humanities from Woodland Community College.
She got her start at the Davis Police Department in 2016 in community services. She graduated from the Sacramento Police Academy this past July, and was sworn in on Aug. 2. She had just completed her field training a few weeks prior to her death, and couldn’t wait to return home each night to share with her father and mother, Lupe Corona, the events of her day.
Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said being in law enforcement was the only thing Corona wanted to do, and she was determined to be the best police officer she could by following in the footsteps of her father, who served 26 years with the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office.
“Officer Corona could have worked anywhere,” he said. “She chose us. She was very loyal to Davis.”
Pytel said the loss of Officer Corona was devastating.
“Although she had just begun her career, she had already made an impact,” he said. “And although she was young, she was seasoned and ready. We lost her way too soon.”
Jackie Corona, flanked by her sisters Kathy and Cindy, said that their beloved older sister was a perfectionist, but that it only made her more perfect in their eyes.
“Natalie will forever be our hero,” Jackie said. “She will never be forgotten. She is still loved, still missed, and very dear.”
Following the memorial, a procession of law enforcement and emergency vehicles stretching some 30 miles escorted the fallen officer from Davis to and through Arbuckle, as residents from Colusa County and beyond lined the streets waving American flags and blue banners.
Corona was buried in the family plot at the Arbuckle Cemetery following a brief ceremony that included “Amazing Grace” played by a lone piper, a three-shot volley of rifle fire, the playing of Taps, and a final salute from her fellow officers from the Davis Police Department and many others in uniform.
An honor guard, one of several that had not left Corona’s side since she was killed eight days earlier, reverently folded the American Flag that had covered her coffin and presented it to Chief Pytel, who then handed it to her mother.
Pytel posthumously awarded Corona the Purple Heart, Medal of Distinction, and the Cantrill Citation, the latter named after Douglas Cantrill, a Davis police officer who was shot and killed following a routine traffic stop in 1959, and presented those to her parents.
Corona’s badge number, 224, and her radio call sign, 3X33, have been permanently retired.
Long after the crowd dispersed the gravesite on Friday, Corona’s immediate family stayed to pay their respects to their “beloved angel” in private.
A reception followed at Charter Oaks.
Merced Corona, earlier in the day, said his daughter couldn’t know that she would come to touch so many lives around the world, but that she truly loved police work, and that she loved, respected, and was grateful to all those who served or were currently serving in law enforcement. ■