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Five people, including two sheriff's deputies, were killed during an hourslong standoff in North Carolina, officials said Thursday morning.
Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox went to a home in Boone, about 102 miles northwest of Charlotte, on a welfare check around 9:45 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to the Watauga County Sheriff's Office. Someone reported that the homeowner and his family had not shown up to work or answered any calls. The deputies identified all vehicles on the property in the 500 block of Hardaman Circle and entered the house.
That is when authorities said someone inside opened fire, striking both deputies and triggering a 13-hour standoff.
During an initial rescue attempt of the deputies, a Boone police officer was hit by gunfire, but was uninjured because he was wearing protective gear, the sheriff's office said.
Ward died after he was taken to Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, according to the agency. Fox died at the scene.
Three other people, including the suspected shooter, were found dead inside the home after the standoff ended around midnight, authorities said.
"The individual suspected of killing the two officers is also suspected of killing two civilians in the residence," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
The agency has not said what led to the suspected gunman's death, but an official told The News Herald in Morganton that he died in an apparent suicide.
While the names of the remaining victims have not been released, the sheriff's office confirmed to WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, that the two people who died were a husband and wife who lived at the home. The suspected gunman was the son of one of the victims and the stepson of the other.
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“This is an incredibly tragic situation and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved as well as their families and our community,” Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate the tremendous support we are receiving from law enforcement agencies across the region and the state.”
During the standoff, law enforcement encircled the house, and nearby residents were evacuated.
The incident is the latest deadly shooting in the U.S. this year.
While there is no federal definition for mass shootings, Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C., defines it as a shooting incident in which four or more people are injured or killed, excluding the shooter.
Data from the Gun Violence Archive showed that the number of multiple-victim shootings first spiked in April 2020 and has remained high since.
From Jan. 1 to April 26, there have been 160 shootings in which four or more people were injured or killed — compared to just over 90 during the same period in 2020.
This year’s total is nearly double the average for the same time period every year since 2014.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.