Out of the blue, a man walks onto the employee parking lot of police headquarters in downtown Greensboro and, using an accelerant, sets a marked patrol car on fire.
Then, according to police accounts, the man attacks an officer who is about to enter the building, striking the officer in the face and head repeatedly, then locking his arms around the officer’s neck.
The man attempts to grab the officer’s gun, according to police accounts.
Hearing the commotion, two other officers come to the scene.
Shots are fired. The man dies.
And now there are more questions than answers.
Is nowhere secure?
What emboldens someone to stage both acts of arson and assault at, of all places, police headquarters?
This tragic and puzzling tableau unfolded Aug. 27 and was as scary as it was confounding.
“It’s disturbing,” Police Chief Brian James said of the incident. “You think of (the police department) as a safe place.”
Well, at least we did.
Now the people whose job it is to keep us safe are having to worry about keeping themselves safe — not only while on patrol on the streets of the city, also while walking in the parking lot of a building filled with other police officers.
As for the reason behind the attack, all anyone can do at this point is speculate.
Did the man, identified as Christopher Corey Moore, 41, have some grievance with police?
Was mental illness a factor?
And why commit the crime, which obviously involved some degree of forethought (he brought with him a fire accelerant), in the middle of the day instead of the cover of night?
We do know that Moore had had a previous run-in with police. He was convicted in 2015 of assaulting an officer, but James said Moore had not been viewed as a potential threat to officers.
And we know that the veteran officer who initially was attacked, J.M. Chavez, was treated at a local hospital and released.
As is routine when a police shooting occurs, the State Bureau of Investigation will conduct an inquiry.
Meanwhile, you would think what happened was an anomaly, but it wasn’t.
In June, a man fired shots at a police substation in Winston-Salem before he was injured in a shootout following a chase. Authorities later found the bodies of his mother and grandmother, and charged him with murder.
In November 2020, one man was killed and two were injured in a shooting outside the Guilford County Courthouse, within a few dozen steps of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and Greensboro police headquarters.
“This is absolutely insane and I am very concerned about it,” James said in November. “To have a shooting in broad daylight like this in the middle of downtown — a heavily populated area, people going to court, people going to work, people just trying to live.”
In the more recent shooting, the chief was just as incredulous.
But in this case, the people going to work were police officers.
So James said Greensboro police are considering new security measures, possibly including fencing around the headquarters parking lot. Assistant City Manager Trey Davis, who oversees the police department, told the City Council last week that the city and county already had been working on a security plan after several shooting incidents in and around Governmental Plaza downtown.
The city also will hire a consultant to enhance security at the Melvin Municipal Office Building.
If nothing else, the incidents make unsettlingly clear not only the extent of the violence that has recently wracked the city but the sheer brazenness of it as well. Are these people really that dumb or they do they simply not care?
As for the officers, it is yet another challenge in an already dangerous and stressful profession.
We sometimes tend to forget that they don’t wear badges and uniforms 24/7. They are members of this community, with homes and families of their own.