WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — The Watauga County Sheriff's Office has released the names of the suspect and the other victims in Wednesday's stand-off. Investigators said 61-year-old Michelle Ligon and 58-year-old George Ligon were the mother and stepfather of the suspected gunman, Isaac Barnes. Mrs. Ligon worked for the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority.
Authorities said Barnes shot the couple along with two Watauga County deputies. The deputies were responding to do a welfare check at the home on Hardaman Circle after co-workers said the homeowner hadn't shown up to work and was not picking phone calls.
As the officers entered the house, authorities said the gunman started shooting at them. K-9 Deputy Logan Fox was hit and died at the scene. Fox was a two-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office and worked with K-9 officer, "Raven."
The second deputy, Sergeant Chris Ward died at a nearby hospital. Ward was an eight-year veteran on the force and leaves behind a wife and two children. A Boone police officer was also shot but a helmet he was wearing prevented the bullet from piercing through. Authorities said the gunman later turned the gun on himself.
Law enforcement agencies statewide have been shaken by the tragedy and are reacting.
"One of the first things I want to do is offer our condolences and prayers to the families of the ones that lost their lives, the deputies and the sheriff and the team out there," said Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers.
"It's always a tragedy when you lose a law enforcement officer anywhere around the country. Unfortunately, we've lost several officers in our department and as a department, we also offer our assistance to that department if they need anything," said Lt. Todd Hart, Public Information Officer, Winston Salem Police Department.
"No call is routine. No words can soothe the pain for their families. No social media post can explain what it means to take the oath to protect and serve, knowing you may be required to sacrifice your life to protect others," read a statement on Forsyth County Sheriff's Office's Facebook page.
Investigators have called the incident an ambush and Sheriff Rogers said law enforcement consider all calls potentially dangerous.
"There's no more ordinary call. Those days are gone and long gone. It's more dangerous to respond to calls to go and protect and serve," Sheriff Rogers said.
"It's always rapid and it's always evolving. It's not like where the officer already has something set up. Going inside somebody's house is unknown to us so we're always trying to catch up to what the scenario is," Lt. Hart said.
While it is their goal to protect and serve, officers genuinely want situations to end without loss of life. Many times they have to wear multiple hats beyond that of enforcing the law.
"Each time we have to play a role or a different role and figure out what the need is from that citizen when we get there," Hart said.
"Truth be told, all of us want to come home. Yes, we signed up for the job and it's the nature of the job, but at the end of the day, none of us wants to leave their family," Rogers said.
The State Bureau of Investigation is now looking into the case. A fundraiser for Sgt Ward's family raised nearly $50,000 in just 10 hours.