Public School Teacher Who Had A Secret Double Life Killed In Shootout With Drug Cartel Members

(Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A public high school teacher in North Carolina who also served as a coach led a secret double life that involved Mexican drug cartels, leading to his death in April following an “old Western shootout,” numerous sources reported Wednesday.

Barney Harris was a popular Spanish teacher and coach at Union Academy Charter School in Monroe, North Carolina. But police say Harris and his associate Steven Alexander Stewart were behind a scheme April 8 to steal money and drugs from cartel members at a mobile home, WSOC-TV reported.

Investigators say Harris and multiple others were involved in a shootout at the mobile home, which Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson called the “stash house,” according to Fox 8. Harris had entered the mobile home and once Lara arrived, his hands and feet were bound, Johnson said.

Police received calls reporting gunfire at almost 1 a.m. April 8. When they arrived at the scene, they reportedly found 18-year-old Alonzo Beltran Lara and Harris, both with gunshot wounds. It appeared Lara had died after being shot twice in the back of the head, execution-style, Fox 8 reported. (RELATED: Police Arrest Teacher After Allegedly Attacking Several People At A Bar, Taking Chunk Of Woman’s Hair Out)

Harris was found dead at the scene while Lara later died at a hospital, according to Fox 8. Johnson said Harris and Stewart fatally shot the 18-year-old, according to WSOC-TV. Lara was believed to be a drug runner for the Sinaloa New Generation Cartel, a cartel based in Jalisco, Mexico, WBTV reported.

Harris had a bulletproof vest on during the shootout, but it didn’t protect against the kind of ammunition being used.

“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,” Johnson reportedly said.

Investigators found 30 shell casings around the mobile home, and nearly a kilo of cocaine was found near Lara, according to Fox 8. Johnson compared the scene to an “old Western shootout.”

Authorities seized 1.2 kilograms of suspected cocaine, five guns, and $7,000 in cash during the investigation, WBTV reported. 

A few days after the incident, police charged Stewart, Harris’ brother-in-law, with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to Fox 8. Investigators say they found firearms and other evidence linking Stewart to the mobile home.

Harris had been a teacher at his school for four years and served in a variety of other roles at Union Academy, including freshman advisor and track and field coach, according to Fox 8. Harris’ page on the school’s website appeared to have been scrubbed as of Wednesday. His page also reportedly said Harris was married with three children. 

“The UA community is mourning the unexpected loss of teacher and coach Barney Harris. UA students, staff and families are asked to wear UA Spirit Wear on Monday, April 12 to celebrate the life of Coach Barney Harris, whose motto ‘All Love…No Fear,’ will be forever a part of who we are as a school. Love each other and live each day to the fullest,” the school posted, according to Fox 8.

Police are continuing to look for Juan Daniel Salinas Lara in connection to the case, according to WBTV.