The sheriff was already running late to the office when a woman pleaded for him to stop. She wanted to pay her respects to the families of Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox, but didn't have much to offer.
Less than a week ago in Boone, North Carolina, two deputies had been killed in the line of duty while performing what was supposed to be a routine welfare check. They were met with gunfire and killed after entering the home.
“‘It isn’t much, but I would like for them to have it,'” the woman told Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman on Tuesday.
She handed the sheriff a crumpled-up dollar bill, three quarters and a nickel, proudly noting it was her money. He seriously considered not taking it, realizing she was the one who needed it more.
Then it hit him.
“Her gift’s worth is not measured by the tactile touch of paper nor that of coin," Hagaman said. "It was, after all, her gift — a gift that cannot be identified by ink and paper, nor that of forged metal. Its worth transcends any worth that we could ever ascribe. It is, however, the quiet and simple gift of hope, faith and love. These are the three attributes of our two fallen brothers.”
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.”
On Thursday, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Hagaman, the county sheriff, vowed to be there for the families well beyond Thursday.
“There’s a brotherhood that is there for each and every one of us," he said. “Your heart hurts. You have a void that cannot be filled easily, but I want you to know that we love you, we’re here for you after this ceremony and months and weeks ahead. Thank you for allowing us to have these two brave men protect the citizens of Watauga County.”
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.
Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.