Within minutes of last Thursday night’s shooting (Jan. 10) of Davis police officer Natalie Corona three blocks from campus, UC Davis police had stationed themselves all around the campus perimeter to watch for the at-large gunman.
“He was not going to get on this campus,” Police Chief Joe Farrow told Dateline UC Davis. “He was not going to hurt somebody on this campus. And I think that’s really, really important for people to know, that we fortified this place very quickly … and within 30 seconds this place is being locked down.”
The “officer down” call from Fifth Street between C and D streets came in at 6:55 p.m., within an hour after a shift change at the campus Police Department. So, when the department called all officers back, they got here in a hurry. Some were still in uniform when they were summoned.
Farrow and his command staff quickly assembled a force of 15 to 18 officers, including three from UC Berkeley, three from UC San Francisco and two from UC Santa Cruz. The California Highway Patrol also played a role in security on the campus perimeter.
The other UC officers, not being as familiar with downtown Davis as UC Davis police, took up assignments on campus, freeing the UC Davis officers to go downtown to assist city police in the search for the gunman.
The campus Police Department also had 25 Aggie Hosts — student security officers — roaming the campus, “all with radios, communicating with us, providing additional eyes and ears,” Farrow said.
Sheltering in place
The first of several WarnMe messages went out at 7:28 p.m. and another followed at 7:46 advising people to shelter in place. But while the WarnMe system indicated the messages had gone out, not everybody received them (the result of a technical problem at the WarnMe vendor, Rave Mobile Safety).
All the while, police officers and Aggie Hosts stopped people they saw walking around campus to advise them of the situation. UC Davis social media accounts posted the WarnMe alerts and other updates — and word spread.
The important thing to remember, he said, “People on campus were protected, but they probably never knew it, they just didn’t realize what was going on around them, that there were a lot of people trying to ensure their safety.”
Rave corrected the distribution problem for a second round of alerts that started going out at 8:45 p.m. The company has taken responsibility for the failure and is making enhancements to prevent a reoccurrence. Read more about how Rave and campus officials are following up.
The Police Department has many protocols in place for emergencies like this one, Chief Farrow said. “Most of them worked, in terms of the front-line force,” he said. “Some failed, but people improvised, they got information that they needed, and, at the end of the day, the assailant was caught and no one was injured, and we’re back to some normalcy.”
As the manhunt continued in downtown Davis, students and others around campus called in to the Police Department to advise of locations where people were sheltering in place. Police escorted students and others back to their residence halls and cars, and even responded as far as the Safeway store in south Davis to give rides to students who were afraid to walk home.
“I’m so proud of our campus, how people figured it out,” Farrow said. “They called and they waited for us to come, everyone kind of just did the right thing.”
Officer Corona, 22, who had received her badge in August, died of her wounds, becoming the first Davis police officer to be killed in the line of duty since 1959. The suspect killed himself as police surrounded his home at Fifth and E streets not far from where he shot Corona and also fired at other people.
With the situation contained, Chief Farrow and Chancellor Gary S. May issued a joint statement: “We know our community has been alarmed and afraid while tonight’s events unfolded. While we return to our regular schedules on Friday, our thoughts and prayers are with officer Corona’s family. Please keep them in your thoughts as well. In times like this, we are truly grateful for the dedication of those in our community who protect us at any cost.”
‘One community, town, university’
Friday and Saturday (Jan. 11-12), campus officers joined Woodland police and Yolo County sheriff’s deputies in providing police service to the city of Davis. And they will do the same this Friday (Jan. 18) during a funeral that is expected to draw thousands of law enforcement officers from around the state and nation. See separate story.
“This is a deeply sad time for UC Davis and our extended family within the city of Davis,” Chancellor May said in a Sunday (Jan. 13) message to the campus community. “Let’s focus this week on honoring the service and memory of officer Natalie Corona, whose death has impacted us in profound ways. There will be time afterward to reflect on how we recover from this horrific incident.”
Saturday night, Acting Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ken Burtis was among the speakers at a candlelight vigil in Central Park. He expressed condolences and noted how, at the university, “we look for meaning in things, but that it is difficult to find meaning in such a tragic occasion.”
“So, we come together tonight as one community, town and university, to look for that meaning in our interactions with one another,” he said. We can honor officer Corona’s commitment to serve, protect and defend, Burtis said, by serving one another, protecting one another and defending one another. And he urged everyone to be kind to one another in this difficult time.
The chancellor’s Sunday message concluded: “Officer Corona remains foremost in our minds as someone who paid the ultimate price for protecting and serving our community. We mourn her loss and offer our heartfelt condolences and gratitude to her family, friends and her fellow officers.”