Parents of Natalie Corona choose the ‘Hero of the Year’ award
Davis police Sgt. Eric Labbe flashes the lights atop his patrol cruiser every time he passes Fifth and D streets, his daily tribute to the smiling rookie killed on the night shift.
Labbe remembers the words, scribbled on a sympathy card and handed to a grieving police sergeant that became a department’s credo – their reason to go on.
He read them again Monday at Yolo County’s annual tribute to crime victims and survivors in Woodland to mark National Crime Victims’ Rights Week: “In a world of darkness, live like Natalie.”
Davis police Officer Natalie Corona was shot dead Jan. 10 while investigating a traffic collision. Corona was 22 and a rookie officer on patrol. The gunman, 48-year-old Kevin David Limbaugh of Davis, then went on a shooting spree before retreating to his E Street home, where he shot himself in the head after an hours-long standoff with Davis police.
On a day that honored Yolo County residents who stood up to violence, those gathered at Woodland’s old opera house paid tribute to the beloved young officer felled by it as her parents, Lupe and Merced Corona, looked on.
“Natalie had a big heart,” Merced Corona said after the ceremony. “Her goal was to meet every homeless person in Davis and know them by name. … She was a very caring person. We’re thankful we got her for 22 years.”
The annual event took place with the twin backdrops of Corona’s killing and the activation of a pair of controversial new criminal justice laws that critics say ignore crime victims – events that happened days apart three months ago in January.
“We need now more than ever to share these stories with the public,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. “All of us feel obligated to do this and we sincerely want to honor them. With the Corona family, everybody in the room was affected by her murder.”
In the months since Corona’s killing, her department family has looked to the life she led to help them heal and soldier on, Labbe said. “When Natalie was ambushed, everything changed,” Labbe told the crowd from the opera house stage as a row of officers held placards bearing Corona’s name and badge No. 224.
“This tragedy put everything in perspective. Now, we ask, ‘What would Natalie do?’”
“She was so full of life. We described it as ‘exuding energy,’” said Davis police Chief Darren Pytel after the noontime ceremony. “She served with a smile and got the job done.”
At 22, Corona was already a galvanizing force in her department, said Labbe, her sergeant on the night shift.
Today, “She still remains the glue that holds us all together,” Labbe said, vowing Davis officers will continue to follow the example she set: “to never stop fighting, never stop loving, never stop giving back. We’re protecting the city she so dearly loved.”