Sheriff: Suspect, 2 others in family among dead in standoff

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In this image taken from video Wednesday, April 28, 2021, law enforcement work the scene of a fatal shooting outside a home in Boone N.C. Two deputies were killed and three other people including a suspected gunman were found dead after the lengthy standoff in North Carolina, a sheriff’s office said Thursday, April 29. (WSOCTV via AP)

BOONE, N.C. (AP) — A married couple found dead along with a suspected gunman after a 13-hour standoff at a North Carolina home were members of the same family, a sheriff’s office said Thursday. Two deputies also were fatally shot in the home.

The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office said George Wyatt Ligon, 58, and Michelle Annette Ligon, 61, were killed Wednesday inside their home in Boone. A sheriff’s statement said the suspect, Isaac Alton Barnes, 32, also was found dead at the home and had a large number of weapons.

Barnes was identified as Michelle Ligon’s son and George Ligon’s stepson.

Authorities said Barnes was suspected in the fatal shootings of two deputies who had been dispatched to the home Wednesday. Sgt. Chris Ward died at a hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee, after Wednesday’s shooting while K-9 Officer Logan Fox died at the scene, the sheriff’s office said.

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said family members had expressed concerns about the large number of weapons in Barnes’ possession. The sheriff added that he believed Barnes may have been contemplating an attack in public.

“There was familial concern that he might try to do something and he had evidently a fairly large cache of weapons and he was at the house, which we didn’t think he would be,” the sheriff said.

“I’m convinced that the attitude of the suspect was such that he was planning this, not particularly at the officers, but possibly the public in general,” Hagaman said. “The officers, they thought they were going into one situation, and the perpetrator, the suspect was there.”

A Boone Police officer, a Boone firefighter and an Appalachian State University police officer also were shot at during an initial attempt to rescue the deputies, and the Boone police officer was hit, but he escaped injury because of his Kevlar helmet, Hagaman said.

Morganton Department of Public Safety Maj. Ryan Lander told The News Herald just before 11 p.m. that the suspect appeared to have killed himself.

“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 earlier. “I greatly appreciate the tremendous support we are receiving from law enforcement agencies across the region and the state.”

The sheriff’s office said officers from approximately 15 law enforcement agencies had surrounded the home during the standoff. Other people living nearby were evacuated or told to shelter in place as it dragged on throughout the day and into Wednesday night.

Clarence Wilson, 78, was on his porch Wednesday when deputies pulled up in front of the house across the street. Gunfire erupted after the deputies arrived, Wilson said.

“Then they told me to get back in the house and stay,” he said.

Wilson said he later saw officers pull a man from the house.

“I don’t know if it was a deputy or who it was,” he said. “I was just worried about keeping myself safe.”

Wilson said he heard a second barrage of gunfire around noon Wednesday as the house remained surrounded.

Afterward, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he spoke with the sheriff to offer support and express his condolences.

“We grieve for Sgt. Chris Ward, K-9 Deputy Logan Fox and the entire Watauga County law enforcement community today,” Cooper tweeted. “These horrific shootings that claimed lives and loved ones show the ever-present danger law enforcement can encounter in the line of duty.”

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