A high school Spanish teacher and basketball coach was killed in a recent shootout in North Carolina after apparently mounting a failed attempt to rob a Mexican drug cartel’s “stash house,” the local WSOC-TV reported.
Reports indicated that Barney Harris was viewed by students and others in the Union Academy Charter School community as a “kind and compassionate” man, a “mentor” even — but off-campus, it seems he was living an entirely different life.
Armed raid gone wrong
According to WSOC, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said the Union County teacher and coach had teamed up with his brother-in-law, Steven Alexander Stewart, to launch a covert raid on a suspected cartel stash house in a mobile home park in the early hours of April 8.
They were apparently caught in the act inside the trailer home by a member of the cartel, 18-year-old Alonso Beltran Lara, who was tied up, interrogated, and later executed by the pair for reportedly failing to divulge the information they sought.
Other cartel members soon arrived and a shootout reportedly ensued in which Harris was hit multiple times and fatally wounded. According to reports, Stewart escaped, but was later captured by police.
Other trailer homes were hit with gunfire as well, but nobody else was reported to have suffered any injuries.
“The trailers that were shot up, it looked like an old Western shootout, that’s what it looked like,” Johnson said in a press conference, according to WSOC.
“Mr. Harris, he had a bulletproof vest on, but it did not work with the kind of ammunition that was used,” the sheriff added. “He had gloves on, and he, they went there to do what was done except they did not think it was going to backfire on them.”
Police fear attempted retaliation
Local ABC affiliate WTVD reported that investigators believed Harris and Stewart had used electronic devices to track cartel members and surveil the stash house before attempting the botched raid. Police have expressed concern about potential attempts at retaliation.
“I can tell you right now, when we are dealing with the Mexican drug cartel, someone is going to die as a result of this,” the sheriff said, pointing to particular concern for Harris’ family, according to WTVD. “I am still worried about some retaliation because the Mexican cartels, they don’t forget… They are going to pay someone back, and that concerns me a great deal as sheriff of this county.”
“It’s just hard to understand,” Johnson added of the incident. “The fact that someone like Mr. Harris, who apparently had a pretty good life as a teacher and a coach wound up in this type of crime.”
In addition to dozens of bullet casings found in the aftermath of the deadly shootout, investigators also recovered five firearms, around $7,000 in cash, and approximately 1.2 kilograms — or more than two pounds — of cocaine from the scene, according to local NBC affiliate WCNC.