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Teacher killed in 'old Western shootout' after trying to rob Mexican drug cartel, authorities say

Barney Dale Harris taught Spanish and coached basketball and track at the Union Academy Charter School in North Carolina.

A teacher and basketball coach at a North Carolina school was killed in a shooting after trying to rob the home of an Mexican drug cartel member, authorities said Wednesday.

Barney Dale Harris and his brother-in-law, Steven Alexander Stewart Jr., were accused of robbing an alleged "stash house" last Thursday belonging to a member of the Jalisco New Generation cartel, one of the world's most powerful drug trafficking organizations, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said at a news conference.

Investigators determined Harris and Stewart broke into the mobile home of Alonso Beltra Lara and waited for him to come back, according to the sheriff. When the man returned home, a shooting broke out that resulted in the deaths of Harris and Lara, Johnson said.

Deputies responded around 1 a.m. to multiple calls of gunfire at the residence in the 1000 block of Wyatt Road in Green Level, about 30 miles northwest of Greensboro, according to the sheriff's office. Officers found Harris, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and Lara, who was taken to a hospital, where he later died from his injuries, authorities said.

"It was almost like an old Western shootout," Johnson said. No other injuries were reported, but three trailers were also struck by bullets.

Image: Crime scene in Alamance County North Carolina
A beloved high school teacher is accused of robbing the home of a Mexican drug cartel member in Alamance County, N.C.Alamance County Sheriff's Office

Harris, wearing a bulletproof vest, gloves and a mask, was shot multiple times, according to the sheriff. Lara, whose hands and feet were bound, was shot twice in the back of the head.

During the investigation, deputies seized five firearms, around $7,000 in cash and 1.2 kilograms of cocaine, authorities said.

Stewart, 32, was arrested Sunday in connection with the shooting after a search of his home in Wadesboro turned up "related objects tied to the crime scene," Johnson said. He was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and possession of firearm by a felon in connection with the shooting, according to authorities.

He is being held in the Alamance County Jail without bond.

Efforts to reach Stewart by phone Thursday were unsuccessful. It was unclear if he had an attorney.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the State Bureau of Investigation are assisting with the investigation. Authorities are also searching for Juan Daniel Salina Lara on a cocaine trafficking charge.

Harris, 40, taught Spanish and coached basketball and track at the Union Academy Charter School in Monroe, the school's website said, according to the NBC affiliate WRAL.

"The UA community is mourning the unexpected loss of teacher and coach Barney Harris,” the school said on Facebook on Saturday, according to the station. “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."

As of Thursday, the Facebook post has since been removed, and his name no longer appeared on the school's website.

The Union Academy Charter School did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.