‘She loved people’: Friends remember victims killed in Boone shootings

WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — The community in Watauga County is remembering four people killed during a daylong standoff on Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office said Isaac Barnes, 32, killed his mother Michelle Ligon, 61, and stepfather George Ligon, 58.

The call originated as a welfare check and while responding to the scene, the sheriff said Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox were also killed by Barnes.

Officials said Barnes later died by suicide.

Tributes continue to pour in at a memorial outside the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office for those who died. It’s a touching gesture for the victims, who cared so much about their community.

Boone is one of North Carolina’s finest towns to spend time in, and it was Michelle Ligon’s job -- which was at the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority -- to help people realize that.

“She just made you feel good. And so, she was just the perfect person to promote Boone,” said Greta Lint, the former executive director of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Lint said she took Michelle Ligon under her wing, and in 2003, Michelle ended up hiring Lint and the two went out on the town. That’s when Lint said she got to see how full of life and how fun Michelle Ligon was.

“Oh my God. We took it in as a tourist would enjoy downtown. Boom, we got drunk. We ate. We went shopping. We had a blast,” Lint said.

Throughout the day Thursday, people stopped by the growing memorial to drop off flowers and candles and to say a prayer. The community will remember the lives lost, memories shared and the legacies that will live on.

“The girl that I knew loved life, and she loves to have fun. She loved people,” Lint said. “I hope that they will remember her as someone who, at first, you would think would be the flower on the wall. But then you find out that no, she’s not. She’s the life of the party.”

“A very devoted and loving husband”

David Byrd, who described George Ligon as his closest friend, heard about the couple’s killing from another friend.

“It was definitely a shock because he was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” Byrd said. “I knew George better than Michelle, but both of them were fantastic people. It’s definitely a loss to everybody in the community, and it has just devastated the whole family in so many ways.”

Byrd, 64, said he met Ligon through work in 1990. Both of them worked in the pest control industry. Byrd said Ligon was the branch manager for Terminix in Boone and had hired him. Although Byrd left Terminix several years ago, he said they still spoke to each other every week.

George and Michelle married over a decade ago, according to Byrd. On Michelle’s Facebook page, she makes note of meeting George Ligon in July 2001.

“George was a very devoted and loving husband,” he said. “He would have done anything in the world for her.”

Byrd said Ligon frequently talked to him about how Barnes had a drug problem. But he never heard Ligon express any concern for the safety of him or his wife.

“They just had a lot of conflict there,” Byrd recalled. “He was just concerned about how he was being destructive with his life. He just asked me to pray for him.”

Michelle Ligon also had a daughter in college, according to Byrd.

“George was always telling me how good she was doing and how much of a blessing she was to him and Michelle,” Byrd said.

Back the Blue NC, a nonprofit organization that advocates for law enforcement officials, launched a pair of fundraisers on Thursday for the fallen deputies’ families.

[Fundraiser for Logan Fox]

[Fundraiser for Chris Ward]

Winkler Knives, a small company in Boone that makes highly specialized edged tools, contributed $2,000 to each of the fundraisers for Fox and Ward. Its co-owner, Karen Shook, said she was devastated when she heard the news that the deputies had died in the line of duty.

“It’s just heart-wrenching, it’s heartbreaking,” Shook said. “These are people that did not take their jobs to get rich. We all hear in the news about the few bad apples that are in law enforcement, but I think in general, law enforcement personnel are people that are driven to serve others. It’s very heartbreaking to know that they put themselves in the position to lose their lives trying to take care of others.”

Statement from The Watauga County TDA:

The Boone and Watauga County Tourism Development Authorities (TDAs) are deeply saddened by the tragic events that took place in our community yesterday. In addition to the loss of two Watauga County Deputies, we lost a member of our staff.

Michelle Ligon was the Director of PR and Social Media for the tourism development authority. Devoting 20 years to marketing and promoting this wonderful place that she loved, Michelle wrote and inspired many national and regional stories about Boone and the High Country. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michelle’s family, friends and tourism colleagues. We also extend our sympathy to George’s family.

We send our deepest appreciation to all the law enforcement agencies that responded to this tragic event yesterday, and we offer our condolences to the families of the two officers who lost their lives protecting our community.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.