Funeral services for two Watauga County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were fatally shot in an incident on April 28 are scheduled Thursday at Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center in Boone.
Services for Sgt. Christopher “Chris” Ward, 36, and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox, 25, start at 3 p.m., with doors to the public opening at 1 p.m. According to a funeral announcement, people attending are asked to wear masks.
A procession of law enforcement officers at least two miles long accompanied the two bodies when they were transported from Winston-Salem, where autopsies were performed, back to Boone on April 30.
Hundreds of people lined up along U.S. 421 in Wilkes County to pay tribute. Fire trucks were parked on overpass bridges, with firefighters and other emergency personnel nearby. People were lined up shoulder to shoulder in downtown Boone as the procession passed on its way to Austin and Barnes Funeral Home.
Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said Fox, formerly an Ashe Sheriff’s Office deputy, had a fiancé. Ward was married with two children.
Speaking to the media on April 29, Hagaman thanked the community for its support. “The citizens — I can’t say enough about them.”
Ward and Fox were fatally shot at a home at 553 Hardaman Drive east of Boone while responding to a request for a welfare check there. Fox died in the house and Ward was extracted by two officers while the shooter, identified as Isaac Alton Barnes, 32, was distracted. Ward died after he was flown to a hospital in Johnson City, Tenn.
A Boone police officer’s protective armor was hit by a bullet while Ward was extracted.
A 13-hour standoff with, at the house ended about 10:45 p.m. April 28 when Barnes shot himself and died. Michelle Annette Ligon, 61, and George Wyatt Ligon, 58, who lived in the house, were found there fatally shot after the standoff ended.
Barnes was also identified as the shooter in the deaths of the Ligons, who were his mother and father-in-law. The welfare check was requested after the Ligons didn’t report to work or answer phone calls.
Hagaman said the Watauga Sheriff’s Office earlier received calls saying law enforcement should be on the look-out for Barnes. He said there were family concerns that Barnes might try to do something and that he “evidently had a fairly large cache of weapons.” The sheriff’s office didn’t expect him to be at Ligons’ house, he added.
“I’m convinced that the attitude of the suspect was such that he was planning this, not necessarily the officers but the public in general.” Hagaman said Barnes’ family provided information and said they were sorry about what happened when he reached out to them after the incident.
Five Wilkes Sheriff’s Office bomb squad members and about 10 Wilkes Sheriff’s Office Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team members were among about 300 law enforcement officers who responded to the incident. As requested when paged by the Watauga Sheriff’s Office, the bomb squad brought its two robots and the SWAT team brought two armored vehicles.
Upon the bomb squad’s arrival on the scene about 12:30 p.m., Major Kelly Redmond of the Watauga Sheriff’s Office, incident commander, said whichever of the two robots ready first was needed inside the house to help determine the shooter’s location.
Deputy Doug Cotton and Det. Chris Wagoner of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office, the bomb squad’s former and current commander respectively, soon had the smaller of the two robots moving on its four tracks through the front door of the single-story house with a basement. Both robots have audio and visual functions.
The two veteran bomb technicians were positioned about 10 yards in front of the house behind a vehicle. Cotton said several SWAT team members were nearby. Officers from the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office and other agencies had the house thoroughly surrounded during the standoff.
Cotton watched a handheld monitor and verbally directed where Wagoner moved the robot with the controls. They have extensive experience working together.
Not finding the gunman on the first floor, said Cotton, they sent the robot down the steps to the basement and immediately heard gunfire. “We saw the robot shake a little (from being shot) and Chris ducked it into a side room,” he said.
“Then, we saw him (the gunman) pick up the robot, shoot it and it went blank,” said Cotton, adding that three or four rounds were fired. He said the robot is insured.
Cotton and Wagoner with the bomb squad’s other robot and State Bureau of Investigation agents with another robot kept track of the gunman’s movements in the house for the remainder of the standoff. The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office robot was upstairs in the home and the SBI robot was outside the basement.
“We were able to contain and confine the suspect to the basement,” said Cotton. “They allowed us to know what he (the shooter) was doing.” He said robots designed for use by law enforcement “aren’t needed all the time, but when they are needed they save lives.”
A Community Night of Remembrance in honor of the people who died is set for Monday, May 10. It’s being organized by businesses, organizations and individuals in Boone. Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GRN872H for more details.