Officials: 5 dead, including 2 deputies, in hours-long standoff in Watauga County, NC
WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Authorities say two deputies were killed and three other people, including a suspected gunman, were found dead after an hours-long standoff in North Carolina. A third officer was also shot in the standoff.
The deputies were shot while responding Wednesday to a welfare check at a home in Boone, N.C. after the homeowner and his family did not go to work or respond to phone calls. The standoff began around 9:44 a.m. Wednesday and ended just before 11 p.m.
“The individual suspected of killing the two officers is also suspected of killing two civilians in the residence,” deputies say. The names of the civilians are not being released at this time.
Watauga County Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputy Logan Fox was shot and died at the scene, officials say. Sgt. Chris Ward died from his gunshot wounds after he was taken to Johnson City (Tenn.) Medical Center.
The sheriff says Sgt. Ward was married and had kids while deputy Logan had a fiancée.
A Boone police officer stepped in to help when a bullet hit his helmet. Officials say the helmet likely saved his life, as well as a shield that deflected another bullet.
Deputies said as officers entered the home for the welfare check, a person inside the home started shooting.
Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman spoke to media briefly on Thursday afternoon.
“We heard on the radio, heard the dispatch go out for this welfare check on the parents, the mother and this stepfather - and so you know they went out,” Hagaman said. “Next thing we know they’re saying ‘officer down!’ and everybody went boom.”
Officials say two medical helicopters were called in. Ward was flown out before he died.
“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.”
Sheriff Hagaman says he’s convinced the suspect was planning to do something violent in nature - not particularly targeting officers - but possibly the public in general.
The sheriff says officers thought they were going into one situation and instead, the suspect was there.
“He was at the house, which we didn’t think he would be,” the sheriff said.
Hagaman says the department has had some encounters with this suspect before - as they just had calls about this person Sunday.
“There was familiar concern that he might try to do something,” Hagaman said.
The sheriff says the suspect had a fairly large arsenal of weapons.
Deputies said the shooter remained barricaded inside the home during the hours-long standoff, while periodically shooting in the direction of officers.
SWAT teams from across the state later came to assist in the standoff.
WBTV captured a photo of SWAT team members praying ahead of time.
“I’m confident that we will get through this. It’s just a pretty rocky road right now,” Hagaman said Thursday.
Nearby residents were evacuated, deputies say.
Standoff continues after two deputies shot in Watauga County
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 says, “the deputies were ambushed.”
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.”
Officials have not released any information about the standoff or what led to the situation.
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.
Copyright 2021 WBTV via Gray Media Group, Inc. Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.