‘They didn’t deserve this’; Couple killed in Watauga Co. mass shooting remembered as pillars in community

Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 8:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The husband and wife who were killed in a mass shooting in Watauga County are being remembered as prominent members of the Boone community.

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 the Michelle and George Ligon, died at the scene.

Neighbors and loved ones say Michelle and George were pillars in the community and very loved.

George owned a business in town and Michelle worked at the tourism bureau.

Even though they are heartbroken, friends and neighbors who knew the Ligons say instead of focusing on this tragedy - focus on the lives they lived instead - ones that were filled with love.

“Michelle just adored George and George worshipped the ground she walked on,” Amber Mandel said.

Amber Mandel worked with George for eight years. She says he was like a second father to her.

“My heart sank. It’s just so sad,” Mandel said. “They didn’t deserve this, no one deserved this. I don’t know why, only God knows why.”

Mandel knew Michelle well too. She said she loved her job and the Boone community, but the love they had for each other was the strongest.

“They were adorable. they met later on in life. They never had children of their own. But he took those kids in like his own,” Mandel said.

Greta Lint, a friend and former colleague of Michelle Ligon, spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Thursday evening. She described her friend as ‘laidback’ and ‘happy-go-lucky’. Lint said she met Ligon while working in the tourism industry in North Carolina.

“It was at first like she was a fly on the wall. She was quiet. She was subdued, but once you got to know her she was loads of fun,” said Lint.

She said she was shocked to learn that Michelle had been killed in a shooting.

“I just could not believe it because she was a tender person. She was not a person that would engage in disputes and arguments,” explained Lint.

Lint said she hadn’t spoken to Ligon in several years and regrets not reaching out to her.

“The older that you get, the more you cherish life,” said Lint. “If you love somebody, tell them. Hug them. Let them know what they mean to you.”

Neighbors say they were shocked to hear what happened to the Ligon family.

Bonnie Burton lives only a few houses away and heard the gun shots.

“I guess it’s just instinct I just got down low, you’re just try to asses the situation. Frankly I was terrified,” Burton said.

Already, the community is rallying together to support the families of those who were lost.

“I think if you ask most anybody up here they’d say there’s going to be a lot of reliance on God and their faith to get us through,” Burton said.

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