There was a small contingent of police officers in attendance, as council met for the first time since the Natalie Corona shooting. It was an emotional discussion with tears shed, stories related, and tales of both tragedy and inspiration.
The council followed the recommendations of City Manager Mike Webb to form a committee that would return in May with recommendations on the proper way to honor Natalie Corona, who was shot and killed 12 days before while attending to an automobile collision on 5th Street at 6:45 pm on a Thursday night.
James Lee Jobe, the city’s Poet Laureate, opened the discussion: “No one knows what tomorrow will bring and that is why we must honor every visit while we live.” He added, “Here in this valley, here by the banks of Putah Creek you will never be forgotten. Love will carry on.”
Kiereth Briesenick, secretary of the Davis Police Officers Association, spoke briefly, accompanied by a number of fellow officers. “I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everybody who supported us over the last week or so,” she said. “We’re up here to ask to be part of the decision making process or commission that decides what we’ll do to recognize Officer Corona as a city going forward on a permanent basis.”
Mike Webb recommended putting together a committee to create some form of memorial or honorarium for Officer Corona.
“We are seeing ideas flow in steady stream,” he said. “The ideas are very heartwarming. Obviously people are putting thought into this. It’s something that we want to harness. We want to harness those energies, those ideas and provide some structure for how to as a community, bringing ideas forward and how to do that in a way that is honoring of Officer Corona’s memory, of her legacy, and that’s keeping with the wishes of her family and of her colleagues in the police department.”
He noted that the mayor and mayor pro tem would participate on this committee, representing the city council. And he wanted them to “take our time and do this right,” with the goal of returning to the council in May with recommendations.
Councilmember Will Arnold said he spoke with Natalie Corona’s father and his response was, “Honor Natalie by keeping our police officers safe.”
“No matter what we decide to do in this process, that’s the charge that I’ve been given personally,” he said. “I take that one very seriously.”
“There’s a lot on the table here,” he said. “It is also my belief that this is plural. We’re not looking for the one and only way that we’re going to do this.”
Councilmember Arnold stated, “I think this event rises to the level of many of the suggestions that we have received, some of which would be pretty majors changes to the name and recognition of important places in our community. But I think this rises to that level.”
“Personally I like the full opportunity to get additional input from Officer Corona’s family” and others, and find meaningful ways to honor her legacy, Dan Carson said. “We’ve got a process here that will accomplish that.”
Lucas Frerichs agreed that it should be a variety of ways. He added, “There’s something to be said for some type of living legacy” – a grove of trees or a garden – “something that would show renewal.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida said, “I also believe that we should enter into this process very thoughtfully.” She said, “We should proceed in a thoughtful and considerate way so we can capture (and) reflect who she was and not just who she was as a person, but the idea of her memory was.”
“I think the May time frame is appropriate, because I think it important that the public be part of this process,” Mayor Brett Lee added. “That we don’t rush to make some quick decisions on this. The idea here that it would be a remembrance that would be durable. Many years from now people will be able to point to something quite powerful and special.”
Each councilmember then had the opportunity to reflect on the passing of Officer Corona.
Councilmember Dan Carson told the community, “It’s been a terrible 12 days for our Davis community when we’re left with so many questions.” He suggested that one way to honor Officer Corona “is to do all we can to understand what happened and why.
“Where did the assailant get a gun to kill the officer when he was supposed to be prohibited from having one?” he asked. “Could not someone have steered this person to mental health treatment somewhere along the way?
“There were problems with our emergency warning system that we need to make sure we test and work out,” he said. He noted that our first responders need additional defensive protections.
“This isn’t about finger pointing,” he said. “We have good law enforcement professionals looking into these kinds of questions.
“How can any human being do this to someone else?” he asked.
“We won’t find answers to all of these questions,” Dan Carson said. “This was senseless violence.”
He concluded, “Officer Corona was a hero. I am certain our community will never forget her sacrifice.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida said, “I would like to recognize the effect this senseless violence has had on everyone in the community. Violence at its root springs from violation. This violation has been triggering, unsettling, and traumatizing for many.”
She added, “Almost everyone can emotionally place themselves at the spot Officer Corona stood when she was gunned down.” We all can see our loved ones ‘standing at the spot.’ She said, “We can all empathize with the hope extinguished.
“Finally I want to acknowledge that death is unnerving,” she said. “I have always been saddened when conflicts come from the raw emotions that death evokes.” She added, “Death can bring out the best and worst from families and our community is a family… I believe we will honor Officer Corona’s memory with a better community.”
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said, “Sometimes it gets lost, that public safety is the number one priority.”
He said, “There’s no question that this is a senseless tragedy that took a bright light away from us well before what should have been her time.”
He noted that, as a community, “We’re all in this together. Never have I been more proud of this city.”
Councilmember Frerichs then added that “increasingly not just here in our community in Davis, but also across this country, the emphasis has increasingly been placed on all that divides us. As opposed to what unites us. I’m hopeful that one of the lasting aspects of Officer Corona’s legacy will inspire togetherness and a sense of community. Truly that is indeed what unites us.”
Mayor Brett Lee said, “There’s an exceptional amount of sadness, all of us feel seeing someone who exemplified the promise of youth.” He said, “That is something that comes through in this tragedy – the promise of youth being lost.”
He reminded us “that day in and day out, even today, we ask our first responders to place their lives at risk.” He said, “In a town like Davis, where it relatively safe, we sometimes forget about that.”
Mayor Lee added, “We are a nation that it’s tough to be a police officer in terms of our personal safety… These are positions that most of us would not be willing to perform these tasks. We need to have an appreciation of that.”
He noted to the police officers the level of support from the community. Sometimes the community doesn’t have the opportunity to do that, but it comes out clearly here.
While the comments of all were touching, it was Councilmember Will Arnold, with his message and emotional toll worn on his sleeves, who stole the show.
Will Arnold told the story through the eyes of his four-year-old daughter Sonya. He was playing with her when the news started coming in that there had been a shooting and downtown was locked down.
“She asked me where I was going and I have a philosophy that I tell her the truth,” he said. “I told her there was a bad guy out there and a police officer was shot.”
The next morning she asked what happened, “I told her that the police officer passed away. She asked what her name was. I said, it was Natalie Corona.”
Later on, family members were talking about what happened, and
He said, “I have taken so much strength from Merced Corona, Natalie’s dad. He kept it together far better than I clearly can, at the memorial service. I had the good fortune of being able to tell him that it should not be this way, but he gave me strength.”
“We are forever changed as a community, as well we should be,” Will Arnold concluded.
—David M. Greenwald reporting