ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — A shootout between rival cartels ended with two men dead, including teacher from Union Academy Charter School who was allegedly involved, according to the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.
Gar-Yon-Ded-Weh Stepney, of Winston-Salem, has been identified as a suspect in the case. He has been charged with first-degree murder and is considered armed and dangerous.
The sheriff’s office said Stepney is also known as “J4,” “Garjay” and “Gary Stephens.”
Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson compared the shooting to an “old Western shootout.”
At about 12:52 a.m. on April 8, the sheriff’s office got multiple calls reporting shots fired at a mobile home park on the 1000 block of Wyatt Road, according to Johnson. The sheriff described the home as a “stash house.”
At the scene, deputies found 18-year-old Alonzo Beltran Lara. Lara had been shot but was still alive. Lara later died at a hospital.
Johnson says Lara was allegedly a drug runner who lived in the trailer with one other person.
“One belonging to the Sinaloa new generation cartel that the trailer was a stash house,” Johnson said. “The other being the criminal enterprise robbing the stash house.”
Barney Harris, of Union County, was found dead at the scene. Harris was a high school Spanish teacher and coach at Union Academy Charter School, the school announced on Facebook.
The sheriff’s office believes Harris had entered the mobile home while no one was there and waited for Lara to arrive.
When Lara arrived, his hands and feet were bound, the sheriff said.
Lara was found with two gunshot wounds to the back of the head in what appears to be an execution-style killing.
Harris was found in the bedroom and had been shot multiple times. He was wearing a vest, gloves and a face covering.
About 30 shell casings were found in and outside of the trailer, and three other mobile homes were struck by gunfire. Multiple guns were used.
“It was almost like an old Western shootout,” the sheriff said. “Projectiles going into the trailer, coming out of the trailer, hitting other trailers in that particular trailer park.”
The trailer had been ransacked, and deputies say they found about a kilo of cocaine near Lara at the scene.
At 1 a.m. Sunday, Steven Alexander Stewart Jr., 32, of Wadesboro, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon. He is believed to be one of the killers.
Stewart is the brother-in-law of Harris.
Early Monday morning, they searched Stewart’s home and found firearms and objects tied to the crime scene at the home.
Juan Daniel Salinas Lara is wanted in connection with this case. He has active warrants for trafficking in cocaine.
As of April 14, the sheriff’s office had seized five firearms, about $7,000 in cash and 1.2 kilograms of suspected cocaine. Two vehicles that were involved in the incident were also found: one in Guilford County and one in Alamance County.
“We have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of drugs since February of this year,” Johnson said. “We may be only getting about a half of a percent of the drugs that’s coming into this county and this state.”
The sheriff says this incident is the result of a conflict between two rival criminal enterprises.
“When we are dealing with the Mexican drug cartels, somebody’s probably going to die as a result of this right here somewhere else. And we did not want to put it out there until we could get good grips on what we had going on here.”
“Coach” Barney Harris had been teaching Spanish at Union Academy for four years, was a freshman advisor, and was also the head varsity basketball and track and field coach, according to the school website.
“The UA community is mourning the unexpected loss of teacher and coach Barney Harris,” the school posted. “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 website says Harris was married with two sons and a daughter.