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Last call: Community says farewell to Watauga Co. deputies killed in line of duty

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 8:26 PM EDT
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WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 deputy Logan Fox, two of the victims of a tragic mass shooting in Watauga County, North Carolina, were laid to rest in a funeral service Thursday afternoon.

Friends, family and law enforcement from all over the state came to pay their final respects.

The public had their chance to say their final goodbyes to the two Watauga County deputies who left for work last week not knowing they wouldn’t return home.

Sgt. Ward and deputy Fox were laid to rest on Thursday, May 6 in a public ceremony on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone.

Funeral services began at 3 p.m. at Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center in Boone. Doors opened to the public at 1 p.m.

You can watch WBTV’s full coverage of the procession and funeral services below.

The services were live-streamed by AppTV and on the Watauga County Emergency Services Facebook page.

Sgt. Ward and Deputy Fox stopped at a Watauga County home, just east of Boone, to check on the occupants during a welfare check at a home on Hardaman Circle shortly before 10 a.m. on April 28.

It was the final call as the deputies with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, were shot and killed in an hours-long standoff that lasted all day and into the night.

The two deputies went to check on the homeowner after he and his family did not show up for work, nor did they answer or respond to any phone calls.

They entered the home after noticing all cars belonging to the residents were at the property.

Then shots were fired.

Officials say deputy Fox was was shot and killed at the scene. Sgt. Ward was shot and later died after he was taken to Johnson City (Tenn.) Medical Center.

The suspected shooter, 32-year-old Isaac Alton Barnes, also killed his mother Michelle Ligon and his stepfather George Ligon.

Barnes was found dead on the scene.

A Boone police officer was also shot during the initial rescue attempt of the deputies. The Boone officer was protected by his ballistic helmet and was uninjured.

There were actually two items that saved the officer’s life. A shield blocked one bullet and the helmet deflected the other.

Watauga County deputies were joined by law enforcement officers, and SWAT team members, from all across North Carolina.

A staging area was set up at a nearby church, Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

There, WBTV cameras witnessed a sobering moment -- SWAT team officers huddled in a circle appearing to pray.

SWAT team responds to officer-involved shooting, standoff in Watauga County
SWAT team responds to officer-involved shooting, standoff in Watauga County(WBTV)

Deputies said the shooter remained barricaded inside the home during the hours-long standoff, while periodically shooting in the direction of officers.

The standoff ended just before midnight.

A community, a region, a state, is now mourning the loss of two Watauga County deputies -- a couple of law enforcement officers who died while on duty.

Sgt. Chris Ward was 36 years old - a husband and a father. K-9 deputy Logan Fox was engaged and was soon to be married.

Instead, there are memorials and donation pages and prayer services in their honor.

On April 30, a procession for the deputies from Winston-Salem back to Watauga County saw bystanders along the side of the roads. There were people saluting, flags flying and fellow first responders from all over the state paid their respects.

Just before 3 p.m., the procession for the deputies arrived in Boone to streets filled with community members showing their support.

Third minutes earlier, the procession traveled near Deep Gap, N.C. Community members stood on overpasses with American flags and saluted as it passed.

“We’ve had people come by every day, almost every hour,” Watauga County Sheriff Len D. Hagaman said. “It’s so very nice of the community. The support from the community, the region, the state, the United States has been fabulous.”

Law enforcement agencies across the state took to social media to officer their condolences.

The Albemarle Police Department posted photos of the officers, saying, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Watauga County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Chris Ward and Deputy Logan Fox.”

“The North Carolina State Highway Patrol sends our condolences to the family of Sgt. Chris Ward, Sheriff Len Hagaman and the men and women of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office during this difficult time of loss,” NC Highway Patrol posted on Facebook.

Sen. Thom Tillis tweeted that he and his wife are heartbroken over the incident.

Last Thursday night, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is on the ground in Watauga County, backing up local chaplains by praying and talking with deputies and officers on the scene.

Chaplain David Rutledge says making connections with people is the point.

“The sooner they can talk about what they’ve been through and not necessarily their emotions but talking about just the facts of the situations helps keep it from settling,” Rutledge said.

A memorial outside the Watauga County Sheriff’s office portrays how much law enforcement officers mean to that community.

Candles, notes, flowers and balloons have been placed there.

Some people even told WBTV they traveled hours just to offer their support.

“I felt like it was important for us to come down here because they gave their lives serving the community and the people in general,” said Keyvan Buchanan, who came from Mitchell County, about an hour away. “They gave their lives for a bigger cause.”

In Boone and in Watauga County, there are reminders everywhere in the form of blue ribbons and signs to show support for law enforcement.

Nine miles outside of Boone on Highway 421 there’s a tribute by the side of the road that includes a large picture Fox and Ward.

“Boone is a relatively small place,” said David Jackson, President of the Boone Area Chamber. “Everybody is tangled in somehow with one another and so it feels very personal to so many of us here. That’s part of the resilience of this community. When tough times happen we tend to unite and rally behind each other.”

Mount Vernon Baptist Church was used as a staging area during an hours-long standoff that ended with the two Watauga County deputies dead.

Last Sunday, WBTV attended the service at that same church, celebrating their local “heroes.”

“To share with my family here, sorry, the sadness, and the grief, and to hear a message that says it’s OK to be sad and it’s OK to grieve and it’s OK to have questions, and it’s OK to be angry because that’s there too,” said Kate Jones, a church member of 40 years.

The victims of the tragic mass shooting in Watauga County will be honored in a “Community Night of Remembrance” in Boone.

Several local businesses, organizations, and citizens have rallied to create a Community Night of Remembrance, set for Monday, May 10.

Community members can signup via this link to receive information about a special kit that includes a blue LED lightbulb to honor Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputies Chris Ward and Logan Fox, and the hundreds of law enforcement officials and first responders from across the state that aided the community during the tragedy.

The kit will also include a red ribbon to honor George and Michelle Ligon.

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