The Alamance County (North Carolina) Sheriff's office said that Union Academy charter school boys' basketball coach Barney Harris was killed when he attempted to rob a drug cartel's stash house.
According to Sheriff Terry Johnson, Harris and another man identified as his brother-in-law went to the house in the early hours of April 8. There, the two men exchanged gunshots with members of a drug cartel they were allegedly attempting to rob.
Harris was killed during the shootout and an alleged member of the cartel later died after he was shot twice in the head.
"What we have here is two criminal enterprises … what was found was over 30 some shell casings in the trailer and outside of the trailer and three other mobile homes in that particular park with bullet holes in them," Johnson said at a news conference Tuesday.
Johnson classified the trailer that Harris and his brother-in-law visited as a "stash house." The brother-in-law, Steven Alexander Stewart, was arrested Sunday and charged with first-degree burglary and first-degree murder. Johnson said that Alonzo Beltran Lara had been shot in the head and was found with his hands and feet tied.
"It was believed it was a home invasion for money and drugs," Johnson said. "Numerous guns and firearms were used. It was almost like an old western shootout because there were projectiles going into the trailer, coming out of the trailer, hitting other trailers in that particular trailer park."
Johnson said his department discovered that Harris and Stewart had been "following" the alleged cartel members in an attempt to find where drugs and money were being hidden before the shootout on April 8. He said descriptions of cars coming and going into the neighborhood where the trailers were and data from Harris and Lara's phones helped them piece together the circumstances of the incident.
The sheriff's department also noted that Harris and Stewart had been in Alamance County "looking" before April 8 based on a video on Harris' phone.
Harris had been at school since 2017
Union Academy is a K-12 charter school in Monroe, North Carolina, and is located approximately two hours from Alamance County.
Harris was hired at the school in 2017 to teach high school Spanish and also coached track in addition to being the boys' varsity basketball coach.
The school said in a statement after Harris' death that it was mourning his "unexpected" loss. Before Johnson's news conference Tuesday outlining the alleged circumstances surrounding Harris' death, the school asked all students and staff to wear Union Academy clothing on Monday to celebrate Harris' life and his motto of "All Love ... No Fear."
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