Sheriff’s deputies were ambushed and fatally injured as they made their way to the home’s basement, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman told reporters on Thursday.
The sheriff’s office was alerted on Sunday that the unidentified suspect who killed MPs as well as his mother and stepfather before committing suicide “could be a problem,” Hagaman said.
K-9 Deputy Logan Fox died at the scene in the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Boone, and Sgt. Chris Ward died after being airlifted to a local hospital, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Hagaman said “concerned people” who knew the 32-year-old suspect alerted the sheriff’s office but MPs did not “meet him where we thought he would be.” Wednesday’s deputies did not believe the suspect was home, according to the sheriff.
MPs had searched for the suspect over the weekend to try to “get him away from somewhere so that we can have a little more control over him,” Hagaman said.
MPs were responding to a call for a welfare check on Wednesday after the owner’s employer reported the person did not show up for work and answer their phone, the statement said.
An officer from the Boone Police Department was also shot as he tried to rescue the downed MPs, but his protective gear prevented injuries, the statement said.
A lawmaker was able to safely exit the house, according to Hagaman.
Governor Roy Cooper, in a statement, said he spoke with Hagaman to offer condolences and assistance.
“We mourn Sgt. Chris Ward, K-9 Deputy Logan Fox and the entire Watauga County law enforcement community today after these tragic deaths in the line of duty,” said Cooper. “These terrible shootings which cost the lives and loved ones show the ever-present danger that the police can meet in the exercise of their functions.”
The standoff ended shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday, the statement said.
“This is an incredibly tragic situation and our hearts and prayers are with everyone involved and their families and our community,” Hagaman said in a statement.
The investigation is being conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
The gunman had barricaded himself in the house and had sometimes fired in the direction of the police, according to the statement.
The inhabitants of the surroundings were evacuated.
More than a dozen law enforcement officials responded.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Raja Razek and Giovanna Van Leeuwen contributed to this report.