At funeral, fallen Watauga County deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — It was a difficult day Thursday in Watauga County as two deputies killed in the line of duty were laid to rest.

Sgt. Chris Ward, 36, and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox, 25, were shot and killed by 32-year-old Isaac Barnes during a welfare check last Wednesday at a home in Boone, the sheriff said.

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of people reflected on the ultimate sacrifice both men made. The town of Boone closed its offices to allow employees to attend the services for the fallen heroes.

Both men were carried by horse and carriage down River Street to the Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of Appalachian State University. Community and family members lined the streets as a large American flag flew overhead.

Members of the Boone community and beyond attended the funeral memorializing Ward and Fox. Dozens of family members, law enforcement officials and complete strangers gathered at Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center to mourn the deputies, with hundreds more watching a livestream of the event from their homes.

After the procession, Ward and Fox laid in honor together in a special funeral service held on campus.

The families of the fallen deputies could be seen in the front row as several law enforcement officers spoke about the difficult loss. Several K-9 officers, including Deputy Fox’s partner “Raven,” also paid their respects.

The Watauga County Sheriff called the department a brotherhood and told the families of the slain deputies that they will always be there for them.

“Your heart hurts. You have a void that cannot be filled easily but I want you to know that we love you and we’re here for you,” Sheriff Len Hagaman said. “Thank you for allowing us to have these two brave men protect the citizens of Watauga County.”

The deputies may have saved lives, Hagaman said in an interview last week. The gunman who killed his mother, stepfather and the two deputies owned a lot weapons, which may have been intended for a mass shooting, Hagaman said. The gunman is also suspected of taking his own life during the 13-hour standoff with police.

“Had (the shooter) gotten out of the house, the neighborhood would have been in extreme danger,” Hagaman said in the interview. “He did not say anything about targeting law enforcement, just humanity in general.”

Overwhelmed by the mix of sadness for their loss but gratitude for the support they’ve received since their sons died on April 28, the deputies’ fathers walked on stage and choked up, but had a clear message.

“America, don’t wait for when this happens to show our law enforcement we care,” said Rev. David Ward, Chris’ father.

At 36 and 25, Chris Ward and Logan Fox died as they lived each day since taking their oath to serve the community they so loved: “Heroes,” the fathers declared.

(WATCH: Procession honors 2 deputies killed in the line of duty in Boone)

Channel 9 was in downtown Boone Thursday and could see several businesses along with the Post Office had hung blue ribbons in support of law enforcement. One business owner said she made shirts with all proceeds going to the families of the fallen deputies.

“It is a sad time but it is great to see everyone coming together over this and show our support for law enforcement,” said Cat Presnell with High Country Souvenirs.” We are doing this because we want to show support for all the families that were affected and we want to help them out.”

Family members remember Ward as a loving son, husband and father of two daughters. He cherished hunting, fishing and being outdoors. The Watauga High School alum started his career at the Beech Mountain Police Department in 2013 and joined the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department in 2018.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters, ages 19 and 5.

After a private family service on Friday, Ward will be laid to rest at the Green Valley Baptist Church Cemetery in Sugar Grove.

Fox planned to spend the rest of his life with his high school sweetheart, whom he had been with for seven years. He was long dedicated to serving others, winning the Community Service and Impact Award from his hometown of Beech Mountain at the age of 14. The Ashe County Sheriff’s Office recruited him in 2017 and promoted him to K-9 deputy. He then moved to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office in 2019 to continue his passion.

Online condolences may be shared with Sgt. Ward’s family and K-9 Deputy Fox’s family via Austin and Barnes Funeral Home. Guest books for the May 6 services were also available at the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Boone Police Department.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, a Christian evangelical leader and president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, sought to console the families during the service.

“I’m asked from time to time, ‘Why? Why does God allow pain? Suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why?’” Graham said. “I don’t know. I can’t answer that question. But I do know this: I know that God loves us. I know that for sure. The Bible tells us right here, God’s word. ... I don’t understand it all, but I do believe it all.”

‘That was moving’: Many show support during procession

A number of families who didn’t know the two deputies but wanted to show law enforcement that they care were at the procession Thursday.

One woman there for the family of the officers said this was like a “hug from us to them” and added that she could feel the emotion from people standing with them in the crowds.

“That was moving. You know, the silence that comes over everywhere, and the honor of that,” supporter Sheyna Widener said.

Many were just yards away from the caisson when it stopped, and the officers were loaded on as the families watched. Deputy Fox’s K-9 partner “Raven” sat on the curb and watched that exchange too.

At the same time, there were mothers holding their young children. And just across the street, there were Appalachian State University students there also, including two who held a flag for nearly four hours as police walked by.

Another woman in the crowd said the reverence of that moment was overwhelming.

Watauga County community honors 2 slain deputies

Across Watauga County, signs are up everywhere showing support for law enforcement. From billboards to local churches, people like Lois Browning are letting police know they care. Browning told Channel 9 she went to school with Ward in Watauga County.

“It just breaks your heart,” she said. “Just such a good person gone way too early. We’re thinking about them and we care about them and we support our officers.”

Outside the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, black and blue draped the two patrol cars of Ward and Fox. Nearby, the memorial continues to grow with people leaving flowers every day.

Across the downtown, blue ribbons are outside several of the stores. People are also placing blue lights outside their homes as well many of them leaving them on even during the day.

“We’re gonna put them up to show our respect to the families and to show all the other law enforcement in the community that we do care and we do back them,” resident Seth Ward said.

Last Friday, dozens of people gathered along a procession route in Boone to pay tribute to the fallen deputies who made the ultimate sacrifice for their community.

From Winston Salem to Boone, community members and law enforcement agencies lined the streets to pay their respects to the deputies.

The two other victims who died in last week’s shootings, George and Michelle Ligon, will be remembered on Saturday afternoon. A memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. at Boone United Methodist Church.

(WATCH: Memorial grows outside Watauga County Sheriff’s Office for 2 fallen deputies)