2 North Carolina deputies killed, 3 others found dead after 13-hour standoff

Two deputies in North Carolina have died from their injuries suffered during a more than 13-hour-long standoff at a home near Boone, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman confirmed Thursday morning.

Three civilians -- including the suspected gunman -- also died, bringing the death toll to five people.

K-9 Deputy Logan Fox died at the scene, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed in a statement to Fox News on Thursday. Sgt. Chris Ward died after being flown to Johnson City Medical Center for treatment.

Hagaman said that another law enforcement member, a Boone Police officer who participated in an initial rescue attempt, was shot in the head -- but his helmet saved him from injury.

In a 9 p.m. update Wednesday, roughly 10 hours after police issued a shelter-in-place order to local residents, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman identified Ward as the deputy who was airlifted to a hospital in Johnson, Tenn., and later succumbed to his injuries. Fox was still inside the home where an armed person had continued to "periodically" fire at police who have surrounded the building and evacuated the neighborhood.

Authorities have yet to provide another update on Fox's condition. 

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Images posted to a Facebook profile under Ward’s name and job description show a collection of black-banded police badges in honor of other deputies who were killed in the line of duty in the state. One of them was fellow Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy William Ronald Mast Jr., 23, who was ambushed while responding to a call in 2012.

Under a recent photo of himself in uniform, Ward's friends commented, "Be careful please," and "Love you buddy be safe."

Neighbors who had been evacuated were reportedly cleared to return home before midnight.

There was a procession down Highway 421 early Thursday in honor of the fallen deputy. Flags were lowered to half-staff outside the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, WSOC-TV reported, and a memorial of candles, flowers and photos was growing outside the building.

"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."

What began as a welfare check turned violent around 9:44 a.m. Wednesday when deputies who entered the home in the Browns Chapel area were fired upon, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Deputies were dispatched after the homeowner and his family did not report to work or answer telephone calls.

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When the deputies arrived, they found all of the family’s vehicles outside. They went in, and an unidentified shooter opened fire, striking two of them, police said. Authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for the community around Hardaman Circle, about 115 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Police departments from across the state arrived Wednesday to lend their support to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, including state police and SWAT operators, officers from multiple departments and deputies from neighboring counties. North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation took over the scene Wednesday night.

Residents were warned to close and lock their doors and windows and shelter inside.

Video from the scene showed that police had blocked off Chapel Hills Road. Authorities had converted a nearby parking lot at Mount Vernon Baptist Church into a mobile command center as they worked to secure the area.  Rev. Todd Houston said the church parking lot was hosting a coronavirus vaccine clinic early Wednesday when the standoff began and more law enforcement arrived.

Photos also showed deputies bow their heads in prayer at the scene of the standoff as it was ongoing.

The nearby Mount Vernon school also ordered a lockdown, although parents were allowed to pick up their children.

Police said they evacuated nearby residents and surrounded the home. 

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