SWAT team trains at Howard's Knob home
The storied black house at the top of Howard's Knob became training grounds Tuesday for the Watauga County Sheriff's Office SWAT team.
Bank of America sold the property to buyers from Maryland in March for $133,000, according to Watauga County Register of Deeds records. The home is visible from downtown Boone and is distinguishable by its black paint and bright red circle on its front facade.
Capt. Kelly Redmon said the structure is expected to be demolished soon, so the sheriff's office secured permission from the new owners to use it for training.
"We don't usually get houses that we're allowed to go in and practice," Redmon said. "This is an opportunity we couldn't pass up."
Redmon said the team practiced forcible entries, hostage situations and other tactical exercises as well as working with different equipment. Officers did not use real ammunition during the exercise.
"This house, as opposed to other houses, is really cool, but it does present challenges, because you can basically see all the way through that house through the windows," he said.
Retired professor Richard L. Stahl built the home, located at 448 Howard's Knob Road, in 1990. Stahl was convicted of money laundering and sentenced in 2005 to 20 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5 million in forfeiture and restitution.
The Howard's Knob property was forfeited to the U.S. government, and the property was transferred in 2011 to lienholder Bank of America, which had foreclosed on the property.
The property was valued at $923,300 in Watauga County's last revaluation in 2006 but has since fallen into disrepair. The town of Boone condemned the property in July 2012.