Memorial grows outside Watauga County Sheriff’s Office after two deputies killed in standoff
WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The community is offering condolences after two deputies were killed during a standoff in Watauga County Wednesday.
Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Ward, 36, and K-9 deputy Logan Fox, 25, were killed in the standoff.
Deputies say 32-year-old Isaac Alton Barnes is suspected of killing the deputies, along with his mother and stepfather, 61-year-old Michelle Annette Ligon and 58-year-old George Wyatt Ligon.
A processional for Fox happened Friday morning in Boone. We’re told Fox’s body is being transported from Boone to a hospital in Winston Salem for an autopsy.
The hours-long standoff started when deputies responded to a welfare check at a home on Hardaman Circle in Boone. The homeowner and his family apparently did not show up to work or respond to phone calls. A person inside the home started shooting after deputies entered, officials say.
The sheriff’s office confirmed Thursday morning that Fox had died at the scene on Wednesday. Ward died from his gunshot wounds after he was taken to Johnson City (Tenn.) Medical Center. A third officer with the Boone Police Department was also struck by gunfire, but was uninjured due to his protective equipment, officials said.
Fox is a two-year veteran of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. He was a K-9 officer who handled Watauga County Sheriff’s Office K-9 “Raven.” Prior to working at the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office as a full-time deputy, he served as full-time deputy with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.
Ward is an eight-year veteran in the field of law enforcement. He married his high school sweetheart and is a father of two, ages 19 and 5. He began his career at the Beech Mountain Police Department in 2013, later moving on to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office where he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, after the standoff ended, dozens of law enforcement and EMS vehicles were in a procession for Ward.
“I didn’t see a man who died. I saw... the faces of people who are still yet alive,” one resident said. “I’ve never met the man but I think that’s how he’d like to be remembered. For the positive impact of his actions.”
On Thursday, a memorial began growing outside of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office as condolences poured in. Dozens of candles and flowers were placed outside the sheriff’s office.
The Albemarle Police Department posted photos of the officers, saying, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Watauga County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Chris Ward and Deputy Logan Fox.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team in Charlotte deployed to Boone after the standoff. A team of four chaplains headed to Boone, along with a Mobile Ministry Center, which offers a safe space for people to talk and pray.
Edward Graham, a son of Franklin Graham who grew up in Boone and works for BGEA’s sister ministry Samaritan’s Purse, tweeted, “Praying for Watauga County and Boone NC law enforcement today. They are having a very difficult day, details still coming out, but we have the finest professionals serving our community. Please be praying for them and their families today.”
“The North Carolina State Highway Patrol sends our condolences to the family of Sgt. Chris Ward, Sheriff Len Hagaman and the men and women of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office during this difficult time of loss,” NC Highway Patrol posted on Facebook.
Sen. Thom Tillis tweeted that he and his wife are heartbroken over the incident.
Deputies said the shooter remained barricaded inside the home during the hours-long standoff, while periodically shooting in the direction of officers. According to the Associated Press three other people, including the suspected gunman, were found dead after the lengthy standoff.
“This is an incredibly tragic situation and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved as well as their families and our community,” said Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman. “I greatly appreciate the tremendous support we are receiving from law enforcement agencies across the region and the state.”
SWAT teams from across the state later came to assist in the standoff.
Gov. Roy Cooper called the shootings “horrific.” He said he has spoken with Sheriff Hagaman to offer condolences and assistance.
Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson released the following statement regarding the Watauga County deputies killed in the line of duty:
“I’m heartbroken to learn of the tragic deaths of Watauga County Sgt. Chris Ward and Deputy Logan Fox. These law enforcement officers gave their lives while in the line of duty, honoring their commitment to serve and protect our community. I send my deepest condolences to these officers’ family and friends, as well as the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. I stand in support of our state’s entire law enforcement community and thank each of these men and women who risk their lives each day to make sure all North Carolinians are safe. We share a common commitment to safety, both in the workplace and in the community,” Dobson said.
WBTV captured a photo of SWAT team members praying ahead of time.
Nearby residents were evacuated during the situation.
WBTV spoke to several Watauga County residents Wednesday night. Marco Hernandez said he has a friend who is a sheriff’s deputy, and was surprised to hear about what happened.
“It’s just heartbreaking to hear about that, especially just as we’re a small town. It is pretty heartbreaking,” said Hernandez.
NC House Rep. Ray Pickett said during a statement to the General Assembly that “the deputies were ambushed.” He asked everyone in the House to pray for the victims.
Kimberley Main, an employee at a local Dollar Tree store, said she remembers the last time a deputy was killed in Watauga County. 23-year-old William Mast was killed in a shooting in 2012. Main said Wednesday’s violence brings back bad memories for her.
“The Dollar Tree Family is praying for the families involved all the way around,” said Main. “We love you.”
Law enforcement agencies supporting the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department at the scene include Appalachian State University’s Police, Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Beech Mountain Police, Blowing Rock Police, Boone Police, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, Hickory Police, Morganton Public Safety, North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, West Jefferson Police and Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office.
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