A young California police officer was shot to death, in an "ambush" carried out by a bicycle-riding gunman who took his own life hours later, authorities said Friday.
Natalie Corona, 22, had only been on the job for a few weeks in Davis, California, when she was called to a three-car crash at 6:45 p.m PT (9:45 p.m. ET) on Thursday, police said.
Corona was the first officer to arrive at the scene when she was shot, officials said. She was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center in nearby Sacramento, where she died.
Police later surrounded a house one block away from the shooting scene where they found the suspect, who had killed himself, authorities said.
The suspected gunman was identified Saturday by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office deputy coroner as Kevin Douglas Limbaugh, 48, of Davis, the sheriff’s office said.
The shooter was not involved in the fender-bender, motorist Christian Pascual, 25, told the Sacramento Bee on Friday.
Pascual said he was hit by one car, sending his 1996 Infiniti out of control and into another vehicle in downtown Davis.
The drivers were exchanging information with Corona when a bystander came up behind his right shoulder and opened fire, according to Pascual.
“I gave her my license and she was just about to give it to me,” Pascual said. “That’s when I heard the shots."
The bystander was firing at such close range, Pascual said, he was suffering from some hearing loss on Friday.
“When I looked up and I saw the officer on the ground he was already walking due west ... like just shooting at what looked like random people to me,” Pascual said.
The shooter had rolled up to the scene on a on bicycle, shot Corona in the neck but then dropped his backpack, eventually leading police to his home a short distance away, officials said.
Another witness, Shaun Kingston, told The Associated Press that the gunman appeared calm as he opened fire on other first responders coming to the scene.
"I just watched him basically shoot at the firetruck, dump a clip and put another one in, then just start walking down (the) street like it wasn't nothing," Kingston said.
Once the gunman got home, he chatted with his roommate without "showing any sign he was involved in the incident," Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said Friday night.
During the standoff with police, the suspect walked outside with a bulletproof vest, went back in, barricaded the door with a couch and then fatally shot himself, according to Pytel.
"This clearly looks like an ambush," Pytel said.
Corona started working for the Davis Police Department in 2016 in community services, eventually going to the academy and graduating this past July, officials said. She completed her training just before Christmas and became a full-time officer.
"I can tell you that I haven't seen anyone work harder in a part-time capacity and be more motivated to be police officer than Natalie," Chief Pytel said.
"She's just an absolute star in the department — and somebody that pretty much every department member really looked to as, you know, a close friend, a sister. I've heard our officers describe her tonight as our daughter, our friend, and just the sister that we all wanted."
Corona's dad was a 26-year veteran of the nearby Colusa County Sheriff's Department. Proud father Merced Corona pinned a badge on his daughter at academy graduation, the Williams Pioneer Review newspaper reported.
The dad was recently elected to the Colusa County Board of Supervisors.
"I just want her to know we’re going to miss her a lot," Corona told NBC Bay Area. "The whole family is going to miss her a lot and we are very proud of her."
He said she yearned to be like her father.
"I couldn’t get her to talk about anything else but law enforcement," Corona said. "She wanted to follow in my footsteps. Every chance she got she’d go on a ride along with me. I’m not angry I don’t think any of us are angry. We want some answers some basic what happened but we’re not angry people. People are going to pay the ultimate price sometimes for protecting us and keeping us safe. And she signed up to do that."
Colusa County Sheriff's Department said in a statement on Friday, "Our hearts are broken over this tragic and senseless loss. Your family at the Colusa County Sheriff's Office stand with you in this difficult time."
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags in the capitol, in nearby Sacramento, lowered to half-staff
“Jennifer and I are terribly saddened to learn of the death of Officer Corona," he said in a statement on behalf of him and wife Jennifer Siebel. "We join all Californians in mourning the loss of this courageous officer and extend our deepest condolences to Officer Corona’s family, friends, and coworkers.”
Corona is the first Davis police officer killed in the line of duty since 1959, the department said. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department will take over the investigation, Pytel announced.
Corona is the second 22-year-old female police officer killed this week.
Officer Chateri Payne was shot to death at a home in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Wednesday, police said. Her killer was not immediately captured.