Two sheriff’s deputies were among four people killed in Boone, North Carolina, during a 13-hour standoff that authorities said started Wednesday morning when they were called to the home of a man who had not shown up for work.
Deputies from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office arrived at a house at 9:44 a.m. Wednesday after the homeowner’s employer called to report that the person had not come to work or answered telephone calls, the sheriff’s office said.
After the deputies went inside, two of them were shot as they descended the basement steps, Sheriff Len Hagaman said.
Hagaman told reporters it was fair to say his deputies had been ambushed by the gunman, who was later identified by officials as Isaac Alton Barnes, 32. He is also suspected of killing his mother, Michelle Annette Ligon, 61, and his stepfather, George Wyatt Ligon, 58, before killing himself, according to a statement Thursday afternoon from the sheriff’s office.
The person who called the sheriff’s office for a well-being check was the stepfather’s employer, Hagaman said.
Hagaman said the gunman may have had plans to target members of the public and that the sheriff’s office had been warned that he had “a lot of guns.”
The sheriff’s office said the standoff ended about 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Hagaman said that Barnes appeared to have a plan for “taking people out.” He did not describe details of that plan.
In recent days, the authorities had received calls from people concerned that Barnes might be dangerous, Hagaman said.
“They were just kind of giving us a heads up, ‘This is what he’s thinking about doing,’” he said. The authorities did not know he was in the house when they arrived, Hagaman said.
One of the deputies, Sgt. Chris Ward, died after being flown to Johnson City Medical Center. The other, Logan Fox, a K-9 deputy, died at the scene, the sheriff said. The identities of the gunman’s mother and stepfather were not immediately released.
An officer with the Boone Police Department was also shot, the authorities said, but was uninjured because he was wearing protective equipment.
“This is an incredibly tragic situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved, as well as their families and our community,” Hagaman said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate the tremendous support we are receiving from law enforcement agencies across the region and the state.”
More than a dozen law enforcement organizations, including other sheriff’s offices, police departments and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, responded to the standoff.
During the confrontation, Barnes barricaded himself inside the house and periodically fired at the officers, the authorities said.
John Barbour, a retired minister who said he lives a quarter of a mile from the house, said he received a call from law enforcement officials Wednesday morning telling him to stay inside.
“They said please lock your door, lock your windows, because there is a crime in progress,” he said. Barbour, 67, described the neighborhood as quiet, peaceful and middle-class.
“People are very friendly. They say hello and talk to you,” he said. “So it’s surprising when something like this can happen in this neighborhood.”
Barbour said he was horrified and saddened by the deaths of the officers and the people inside the house.
“This is happening too often,” he said.