Deputies: Union County Basketball Coach Killed In Shootout With A Mexican Drug Cartel
UPDATE 4/15 – The family of a Union County teacher killed during a shootout with a Mexican drug cartel is in protective custody as new details about what happened in Alamance County last week emerge.
Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson says Barney Harris, the former Spanish teacher and basketball coach at Union Academy, was involved in a criminal enterprise that would track cartel members and try to steal money and cash from them.
Johnson Says Harris made several trips to Mexico in the last year and had been following a cartel drug runner for some time.
According to detectives Harris tied up and killed Alonzo Lara, a known cartel member, on April 8th. Harris was then killed in a shootout with other cartel members.
“In this case, I’m fearful for the families on both sides on this deal. Somebody else is going to die. You don’t rip the cartel off and you don’t kill their drug runner because they will retaliate with vengeance. That bothers me,” said Sheriff Johnson.
The Sinaloa New Generation Cartel was once headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman once considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.
Johson says the DEA is assisting in their investigation and that the US attorney’s office is starting a strike force to go after the cartel along the I-40 and I-85 corridors.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Deputies say a Union County high school basketball coach was killed in a shootout with a Mexican drug cartel at an alleged stash house in Alamance County this past Thursday, April 8th.
Barney Harris, the men’s head basketball coach at Union Academy, was found dead at the scene along with one other gunshot victim, according to the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies say on April 8th at 12:52 a.m. they responded to numerous reports of shots fired at a mobile home park on Wyatt Road in Green Level, North Carolina.
Officers say when they arrived on the scene they found two individuals inside the mobile home, Barney Harris and Alonso Lara, suffering from gunshot wounds.
“Nothing surprises me. I’ve been in this business right at 50 years now and nothing surprises me,” said Sheriff Terry Johnson.
Deputies say Barney Harris died at the scene, and Alonso Lara was first taken to a local hospital before he later died from injuries received in the shooting.
Detectives determined Harris and a team of people came to the residence earlier (believed to be a stash house) on that Thursday to steal illegal narcotics and money, and at some point there was a shootout that resulted in the deaths of Harris and Lara, believed to be involved in separate criminal enterprises.
During their investigation, detectives seized five firearms, around $7,000 in cash, and 1.2 kilograms of suspected cocaine, and recovered two vehicles involved in the incident in Guilford and Alamance Counties.
“You could tell it was almost like an old western shoot out,” said Sheriff Johnson.
Deputies say Steven Stewart Jr. was arrested on April 11th at 1 a.m. for his involvement in the fatal shooting on Wyatt Road and charged with first degree burglary.
On Monday, April 12th Stewart was additionally charged with first degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to a news release. Deputies say Stewart is being held at the Alamance County Detention Center without a bond, and appeared for the first time in court on Tuesday, April 13th.
Harris was hired to teach Spanish and coach basketball at Union Academy in 2017.
School officials saying in a statement:
“… The Union Academy family was shocked and devastated to hear the information and will continue to focus on supporting our students and families.”
Police say Juan Salinas Lara is wanted in reference to this case and has active warrants for trafficking in cocaine.
Sheriff Terry Johnson with the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office held a new conference on Wednesday, April 14th to release some details, and to explain that releasing them any earlier would have been dangerous for anyone involved.
Johnson said “When we are dealing with the Mexican drug cartel, somebody is probably going to die as a result of this right here, somewhere else. And we did not want to put it out there until we could get a good grip of what’s going on here.”
Police say anyone with more information regarding this case is asked to call the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office at 336-570-6300 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 336-229-7100.