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A North Carolina father, charter school coach and teacher, along with a teenager that police say was a "drug runner" were both shot to death last week in what the local sheriff has described as an “old western shootout” after the apparent botched robbery attempt of a notorious Mexican cartel.
Barney Dale Harris, 40, was found dead wearing a bulletproof vest, mask, and gloves in the early hours of April 8 inside a trailer in Green Level, N.C. after police responded to reports of gunfire at a trailer, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday. Another man, 18-year-old Alonso Beltran Lara, was found shot at the same location; he was transported to a local hospital where he later died. Steven Alexander Stewart, Jr., Harris’s brother-in-law, was arrested over the weekend in relation to the incident.
The sheriff’s office said that it is believes that Harris and Lara were a part of separate criminal enterprises and that Harris and a team of people were at the home to steal drugs and money when they were discovered.
“It was almost like an old western shootout. There were projectiles going into the trailer, coming out of the trailer, hitting other trailers in that particular trailer park,” Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It looked like it had been ransacked looking for money or drugs, or both.”
Johnson said that Lara was a drug runner for the Sinola New Generation Cartel — which is an alias of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the militarized criminal group formerly known as Los Mata Zetas.
“Harris and his brother-in-law, Stewart, were following these cartel members and were trying to figure out where the locations of these stashes were — their money — and would go in, like a home invasion, and would try to take the money and the drugs," Johnson added.
Lara lived in that trailer, Johnson said, along with another “Latino individual.” Police determined via cell phone data that Harris had gotten inside the trailer roughly 20 minutes before Lara arrived that night. Upon entering, Lara was overtaken, tied up, and shot twice, execution-style, in the back of the head.
The gunfire attracted attention and a shootout involving multiple individuals ensued. Speaking to Oxygen.com on Thursday, Johnson said that "intelligence has shown they are connected to the cartel."
Harris was later found dead in a bedroom inside the trailer. Investigators said they found around 30 shell casings in and around the trailer.
The sheriff’s office said it has seized five firearms, approximately $7,000 in cash, and 1.2 kilograms of suspected cocaine. Two vehicles that they say were involved in the incident were found in Guilford County and Alamance County.
On Sunday, Stewart was arrested and charged with first-degree burglary in relation to the incident. The following day, the 32-year-old was also charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. He is being held in the Alamance County Detention Center without bond; his first court appearance is set for Tuesday, the sheriff's office said.
Juan Daniel Salinas Lara is wanted in connection to this case and has active warrants for trafficking in cocaine; his relation to Alonso Beltran Lara is unclear, but Johnson told Oxygen.com that he believed they are kin.
The case is ongoing and additional charges are possible, the sheriff’s office said.
Harris was a Spanish teacher and basketball and track and field coach at Union Academy Charter School, which has now scrubbed its social media accounts of images and references to him. The school, which is about 130 miles away from the location of the incident, said in a statement that it is “shocked and devastated to hear the information” about his death.
A GoFundMe page organized to honor Harris’s “life and legacy” was set up on Saturday; it is listed as no longer taking donations after raising just over $23,000. People reported that the page was set up to help Harris’s widow and their three children. A message sent to the individual who created the page as not immediately returned.
Loved ones say Harris was a "dedicated" educator and "the encouragement and motivation he gave both his students and athletes was priceless," People reported.