I have seen the comments that tragedies like this are not supposed to happen in Davis. While I understand the sentiment, I’m not sure if I agree with it. In my time of covering events in Davis, we have reported on and discussed quite a few different issues – from the tragedy of the Daniel Marsh killings to the Pepper Spray incident – and our still small community has seen its share of triumph and tragedy in the last 12 years.
What happened on Thursday night is a reminder to us all that we must be cautious, even if we feel safe and secure in our own community.
The incident itself is chilling. Most experts believe there was not much that Officer Natalie Corona could have done. A traffic collision had occurred, the young officer on the force since July had finished her field training in December, but there was little she could have done.
While she was checking the licenses of the drivers, the assailant, 48-year-old Kevin Limbaugh, would ride up on on a bicycle, emerging from the shadows and opening fire with his semiautomatic handgun. Given the darkness, Chief Darren Pytel described the incident as “an ambush.”
Mr. Limbaugh, whose photo made its way across the media on Saturday after his name was identified, was a familiar face across town. The police initially described him as having no criminal record – that turned out to not quite be true, as there was a punching incident at his workplace at Cache Creek Casino, but he was not someone who was known for making trouble.
Here he was, living directly across the street from the fire station, right by the location of the shooting. The punching incident at the casino resulted in a battery with serious bodily injury, but he had agreed to surrender the AR-15 rifle in November – which he did – to the Davis Police Department.
According to court records, Mr. Limbaugh did not possess any other weapons and authorities have yet to determine where the two semiautomatic handguns he used on Thursday during the shooting might have been obtained.
We learned more from a one-paragraph letter that Lt. Paul Doroshov said was found face up on his bed.
The note reads: “The Davis Police department has been hitting me with ultra sonic waves meant to keep dogs from barking. I notified the press, internal affairs, and even the FBI about it. I am highly sensitive to its affect on my inner ear. I did my best to appease them, but they have continued for years and I can’t live this way anymore.”
It was signed “Citizen Kevin Limbaugh.”
What seems troubling is this – the note is suggestive of serious mental illness, but there was little indication before this incident that he was capable of this behavior. It is a far cry from a fight at a workplace to murdering a police officer.
While he had the one incident, authorities have found no other criminal charges, nor were there signs of mental illness when the battery case occurred and was resolved.
One media account had a former roommate noting that he lived “a trouble life,” “felt trapped,” and had “deep anger issues,” but none of them saw this coming. He was described as “a regular guy” who “had a nice car” and “worked graveyard shifts at a casino.”
The wounds in this community are open and will not heal for some time. There have been makeshift memorials to Officer Corona, both at the police station and along 5th Street. A candlelight vigil on Saturday brought out an estimated 2500 people.
There will be questions. Questions that will be asked. Questions that might not have answers.
The note clearly sheds some light on the situation. Was it meant to be read by officials after he ended his own life? It was face up on his bed. Lt. Doroshov told the Vanguard that it was not clear when it was written, but the location and placement of the note seems rather clear.
One of the questions that will need to be answered – if it can be answered at all – is whether he was planning something anyway and this incident simply occurred right in his vicinity, or did he merely respond to a target of opportunity when the collision brought a police officer within a block of his residence?
So far people who knew him describe him as troubled, but there were few signs that he was capable of something like this. The police obviously knew about him, since he surrendered the weapon, but he was not someone who was constantly producing problems that led to police encounters.
Were there signs of mental illness other than the final letter? Could intervention have occurred? Would it have made a difference?
Given that he was prohibited from carrying weapons, and in fact turned in his AR-15 to authorities just recently, another logical question will be about gun policies and the availability of weapons on the streets.
It is reasonable to point out that he seemed to at least initially comply with regulations. How he got the other two weapons, where they came from, is one piece of this that authorities should be able to determine.
On a personal level, Thursday night will be a night that I will never forget. The night began with a difficult meeting at Montgomery Elementary on the Pacifico issue, which we covered on Friday. Neighbors are frustrated by the current facility and nuisance that seems to be surrounding current uses, and alarmed that proposed expansions of those uses will generate additional problems.
On the other hand, mental health officials at the county believe that, between the residential treatment and navigational services, they will better be able to provide treatment for those in need of mental health care.
How ironic then, that at the same time downtown, a tragedy was unfolding. While still at the meeting, I received an ominous text – active shooter downtown – downtown on lockdown – shelter in place – and finally the fateful text – officer shot.
Kelly Stachowicz, the assistant city manager, made an announcement at the meeting that there was a situation unfolding and to avoid the downtown.
This was the first sense that there was something going on.
Still not knowing the extent of the situation, I planned to head home. But by 10 pm, there was an announced press conference at the PD, so I headed over and Lt. Doroshov told the media that the officer, unidentified at this time, was alive but in critical condition.
We were told the chief would speak later that night. We could come back.
I raced home, processed a few photos and wrote up what there was.
By 11:30 something was wrong. We were called back. In walked Chief Pytel flanked by the entire city council, city manager, assistant city manager, and Supervisor Saylor. I felt sick. I knew this was not good. I knew it before they said anything.
Still the news hit me hard. A young woman. Twenty-two years old. Dedicated. A senseless killing.
We didn’t know the details at the time, but I am told that at the point at which she left Davis, she was still alive. She had been hit in the neck and lost a lot of blood.
Shot in front of the fire station meant almost immediate medical attention – although the firefighters took fire themselves, one being hit in the boot, but no injury. Even this was not enough to save her life.
While we wait for more answers – my initial reaction to this is that this was simply a senseless tragedy. We often use the word senseless because at times we live in a world that is so difficult to make sense of.
Death and killings rarely if ever make sense. And yet to say this is senseless is not enough. What we saw here goes beyond senseless.
—David M. Greenwald reporting