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‘It still hurts:’ Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, chaplains providing emotional support following Watauga Co. shooting

Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 10:49 PM EDT
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BOONE, N.C. (WBTV) - Grief looks different for everyone and can be felt far and wide.

Authorities say a man killed his mother, stepfather and two deputies during an hours-long standoff in Watauga County Wednesday. A third officer was also shot in the standoff.

Deputies say 32-year-old Isaac Alton Barnes is suspected of killing Sgt. Chris Ward, K-9 Deputy Logan Fox, Michelle Annette Ligon and George Wyatt Ligon.

Barnes, who is the son and stepson of Michelle and George Ligon, died at the scene.

The emotional impact is having a ripple effect not just across the community, but also across law enforcement.

“It still hurts. Yes, Boone is two and a half hours away but every officer who worked patrol has gone on a check the welfare call,” said Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Chaplain Michael Mitchell.

Mitchell says no matter the county or city, losing a fellow brother or sister in blue can have an emotional impact on all departments.

He says he and other police chaplains serve in an industry where sometimes you just need to be there.

“We try to really be a safe area for our officers to be able to come talk, to be able to come unburden because things like this do take their toll,” Mitchell said.

Thursday night, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is on the ground in Watauga County, backing up local chaplains by praying and talking with deputies and officers on scene.

Chaplain David Rutledge says making connections with people is the point.

“The sooner they can talk about what they’ve been through and not necessarily their emotions but talking about just the facts of the situations helps keep it from settling,” Rutledge said.

These professional human support pillars aren’t just helping law enforcement, they’re helping families, too.

Rutledge says events like this can affect an entire community, and they will make themselves available to those who need them.

“As long as people are coming up to be at the memorial, we’ll be here, we’ll probably do the same tomorrow and through the weekend,” Rutledge said.

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team says they will be in Watauga County until the final memorial service.

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