Dispatcher: Focused Amid Tragedy

James Bronson Receives Annual Police Award

James Bronson stands outside police building, "Police" sign on window, in background.
<strong>Dispatcher of the Year James Bronson, commended for his leadership the night a Davis police officer was shot and killed. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)</strong>

Around 6:40 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, his shift having just ended, James Bronson was about to leave the campus Police Department’s dispatch center when communications started coming in about a shooting in Davis.

“I literally had my hand on the doorknob when Amelia (Vaughan) and I overheard the word ‘shooting’ — or something similar — on the Davis police channel,” Bronson said. Vaughan and Nate Dilworth, the campus Police Department’s newest dispatchers, had just relieved Bronson and his day-shift partner, Stephen McBride.


“Everyone’s ears perked up because we all knew it was out of the ordinary,” Bronson said.  

Out of the ordinary, indeed. Davis police officer Natalie Corona had been shot and killed on a downtown street three blocks from campus. City police broadcast an 11-99 — officer needs assistance — and began a manhunt for the shooter.

“Without hesitation, James responded back to his work station and began dividing up responsibilities with our two junior dispatchers who had just come on duty,” Capt. Mark Brunet said recently during the Police Department’s annual Employee Recognition and Swearing-In Ceremony. The captain made his remarks while honoring Bronson as Dispatcher of the Year, citing his leadership that tragic night in January.

Bronson, an 11-year dispatch veteran who served as a communications training officer, recalled the campus police channel becoming very busy “because one of our officers had also heard the call, so all of our on-duty officers were asking to confirm details and find out if Davis needed help.”

‘The 4 of us had our hands full’

“The four of us dispatchers all had our hands full,” Bronson said, referring to Vaughan and Dilworth, and him and McBride, who also had been halfway out the door but turned around and went back to work. Bronson and McBride had just finished their regular 12-hour shifts.

“Amelia handled our radio channel, Nate handled our secondary radio channels and answered the phones that started ringing nonstop. Stephen and I helped Nate on the phones, did our best to coordinate with Davis, get updated information to our units and make notifications. It was nonstop like that for hours.”

Police chief presents trophy.
Bronson receives Dispatcher of the Year trophy from Chief Farrow during police ceremony May 1 in the Activities and Recreation Center Ballroom. (Paul Henoch/UC Davis)

They communicated with UC Davis officers — those who were already on duty and others who had returned — and other officers from around the region and other UCs. Some went downtown, others surrounded the campus to ensure the shooter didn’t come this way. (In fact, the shooter had returned to his home not far from where he had killed officer Corona, and eventually took his own life that night.)

Capt. Brunet said of Bronson: “He stayed focused and was a great resource in the room for the team throughout the night.”

Bronson — who is still with the Police Department but has taken a new position as an alarm specialist, giving him a better schedule for family life, as opposed to working nights and weekends in dispatch — is quick to point out everyone’s good work at the Police Department the night officer Corona died.

“It seemed like our whole department responded,” he said. “Officers who had just arrived home, after working all day, turned around and came back in. Officers who had the day off stopped their weekend plans and rushed in to work. My supervisor, Leticia Garcia-Hernandez, came in to back us up and work with the administrators who were also back and coordinating our response.” 

Bronson said he convinced McBride, finally, to go home around 10 p.m., as he would be back on duty in the morning for another 12-hour shift. Bronson had the next day off.

“Everyone else stayed as long as it took to make sure we had done everything we could for Davis PD,” he said.

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