“MX” for Borderland Beat
A popular Union County, North Carolina, teacher described by family and friends as a devoted dad, teacher and coach was fatally wounded in a shootout when he and his brother-in-law tried to rob members of a Mexican drug cartel.
Barney Dale Harris, 40, taught Spanish and was head coach of the boys’ varsity basketball and track teams at Union Academy Charter School, according to his family and the school. He was found dead last Thursday in the bedroom of an Alamance County mobile home that authorities called a drug “stash house” for a Mexican cartel.
Harris was shot numerous times during what the sheriff’s office described as an “old Western shootout” between two criminal enterprises, one of the enterprises being Harris and his brother-in-law.
Officers found Harris with a face cover, gloves and a bulletproof vest on.
Harris and his brother-in-law, Steven Alexander Stewart Jr. of Wadesboro, entered the home waiting for a cartel member to arrive so they could rob him of drugs and money. When Alonso Beltran Lara arrived, he was taken outside, bound by his feet and shot twice in the head, “execution style.” Beltran-Lara was described as a cartel drug runner.
|Alonso Beltran Lara (left) was killed in this incident. His associate Juan Daniel Salinas Lara, who authorities believe is connected to the case, remains at large.|
“And they were trying to find the money and drugs and apparently he didn’t give them the information to do that and he was technically close range, two bullets to the back of the head, he was executed,” officials said.
After the pair killed Beltran-Lara, other members of the cartel showed up and Harris was killed in the gunfire that followed.
When deputies got there they said they found Harris with several gunshot wounds in a bedroom. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Beltran-Lara was also found with gunshot wounds. Deputies said his feet were bound and his arms were tied behind his back. He was taken to a hospital where he later died.
On Sunday, Stewart Jr. was arrested and charged with first-degree burglary and first-degree murder. At a news conference Wednesday, Sheriff Terry Johnson said officers found over 30 shell casings in and outside of the mobile home where the teacher was killed, and bullet holes in three other mobile homes.
Detectives believe Harris and Stewart had been using electronic trackers to follow members of the cartel before the shootout.
Deputies said they found about two pounds of cocaine in the trailer along with $7,000. Juan Daniel Salinas Lara is wanted in reference to case and has active warrants for trafficking cocaine.
Johnson also warned that cartel members may seek vengeance for Beltran-Lara’s death.
“To this day as sheriff, I’ll tell you right now, I’m still worried about some retaliation, because the Mexican cartels, they don’t forget, they’re gonna pay back somebody, somewhere,” he said. “And that concerns me greatly as sheriff of this county.”
Harris was hired by Union Academy Charter School in July 2017 as a high school Spanish teacher and served as the head coach for the varsity men’s basketball team and varsity men’s track team. “It’s just hard to understand,” Johnson said.
“The fact that someone like Mr. Harris, who apparently had a pretty good life as a teacher and a coach, would end up in this type of crime.”
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