Watauga County sheriff ‘overwhelmed’ with support; reveals new details about fatal standoff

North Carolina news

BOONE, N.C. (WGHP) — Five days after the deaths of five people, including two of his deputies, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said the next major step for his office will be the funerals for Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox.

As his deputies prepare for their final goodbyes, the sheriff revealed more details about the days that lead up to the shooting of his deputies by Isaac Barnes, 32, and why the sheriff believed that a large-scale shooting involving the public was stopped.

Wednesday morning, the two deputies were called to the home of Michelle and George Ligon, Barnes’ mother and step-father, on a welfare check after the two did not show up for work.

Hagaman said Ward and Fox entered the home and had cleared the main floor. As the deputies moved to the basement area of the house, they were shot by Barnes.

“Given the amount of gunfire he was pretty well prepared,” Hagaman said. “They were making their way to the first level or the exposed garage, and that’s when they were surprised by him.”

Prior to this shooting, however, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office was warned of Barne’s mental state. On Sunday, Barnes’ biological father reported that he had been threatened by the 32-year-old with a knife.

“There was no indication about his mother and stepfather at the time. His biological father was just feeling threatened at the time,” Hagaman said.

The sheriff’s office alerted surrounding agencies the following day from that encounter to be on the lookout for Barnes. However, it was believed that he had been staying in an unknown wooded part of the county.

The sheriff said after his deputies were shot – coupled with the Sunday encounter – he believed it was possible that Barnes was well equipped with weapons.

“We knew that from an earlier encounter that this was a possibility. When you say a number of weapons, we didn’t know if it was one, five, 50, 500, we just didn’t know. We do know, given the amount of gunfire, he was pretty well prepared.”

The amount of weapons that Barnes had is still unknown. However, Hagaman detailed that if Barnes were to have gotten past authorities, and given the proximity of other houses, he could have shot a significant number of individuals.

After being shot, Ward and Fox were left inside the house for an extended period of time.

Hagaman explained that members from different agencies attempted to distract Barnes long enough to get Ward and Fox out of the house.

Among those was Hagaman’s son, who along with other officers, was shot at multiple times.

“His mom and I, we did not know. He just said that he fell down. He was doing his job. He was one of many.”

Ward was able to be removed from the house, but it took the full 13-hour standoff to get Fox’s body out of the house.

After several failed attempts to establish connection with Barnes, including one attempt made by someone who knew him, authorities made one last entrance into the house.

That is when they found Barnes dead.

This is the second deputy-involved shooting in Hagaman’s time in office.

The first happened nearly 10 years ago.

While it has been difficult for him and his office, and the surrounding community, there has been a substantial amount of help from surrounding law enforcement agencies, including the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies and officers have been helping cover the daily calls for service, operations at the detention center, and the signing off on gun permits.

“I can’t express how much help that has been, to have them here. Not just administratively, but emotionally. [Some of them] who showed, also showed up [after the first shooting], and I deeply appreciate that,” the sheriff said.

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