WEST JEFFERSON — As the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation continues its investigation into an eight-hour standoff Jan. 15-16 that left one man dead, 911 calls made during the incident reveal more details.
The Ashe County Sheriff’s Office first heard from Tiffany McCall at 5:59 p.m. Jan. 15, who called for a welfare check on her father, Landwell V. McCall, 50, of Lenoir. She said her father had texted her and her mother, with the messages making McCall worried about her father’s safety.
Landwell V. McCall called the ACSO exactly 20 minutes later, threatening to kill any law enforcement officer who came to his residence on U.S. 221, near Fleetwood.
In a press release Jan. 22, Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell said McCall opened fire on deputies as they approached his camper.
In a call to 911 at 6:40 p.m., McCall said he wanted to speak to the “highest authority” while also claiming he had 400 pounds of explosives in the camper with him. Howell said the threat of the explosives was taken seriously at first, but investigation into it gave the ACSO no reason to believe McCall had explosives. No explosives were later found in McCall’s possession, although “many” firearms were, according to the ACSO.
About that time, law enforcement from surrounding counties were requested to bring resources that would be needed throughout the night. Law enforcement then used armored vehicles from neighboring counties to evacuate homes in the vicinity.
Between then and 12:21 a.m. Jan. 16, McCall had numerous interactions with 911 operators. In the calls, he demanded to speak with the officer in charge, a general, a senator and Gov. Roy Cooper. He also claimed to have more explosives, underground power lines and to have not been in the camper at all at one point.
Tiffany McCall called 911 operators multiple times during the standoff, stating that her father was under the influence of alcohol.
She also spoke about seeing rumors about the situation on social media, including that the camper her father was in had been “shot up.” Howell said the rumors and stories about the situation on social media were frustrating, mostly because of people posting things without the full information.
Howell said he did speak to Landwell V. McCall multiple times during the standoff, but McCall would not back down from his position. He added that negotiators from other law enforcement agencies also tried to defuse the situation to no avail. One way they tried was through a remote-controlled robot from the SBI, which allowed negotiators to speak to McCall and inspect the area.
McCall was killed at 1:40 a.m. by a deputy as McCall fired at law enforcement officers. Howell said there was never a single moment when it was decided to kill McCall, saying that during the course of the standoff it continually seemed less likely the situation would end with him coming out alive.
The ACSO has not yet released the name of the officer who fired the fatal shot; the SBI is conducting an investigation into the incident at the request of ACSO, as is standard.
Howell said it is still unclear why McCall began firing at officers, or the motives behind his actions. Howell said law enforcement looked into various matters, including McCall’s work, whether or not he had been paid and other ideas they could think of, but nothing came out of it. He added the SBI may have more information when its report on the incident is released, but during the standoff it was not a priority for law enforcement.
A section of U.S. 221 stretching from Water Tank Road to Vernon Roten Road was closed during the standoff.
Multiple law enforcement and emergency response organizations joined the ACSO in the incident, including the West Jefferson Police Department, Jefferson Police Department, North Carolina Highway Patrol, State Bureau of Investigation, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Boone Police Department, Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office, Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office, Appalachian State University Police Department, Ashe Medics, West Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, Fleetwood Volunteer Fire Department, Warrensville Volunteer Fire Department and Watauga EMS.