Lockdown at Millbridge Elementary Thursday prompted by drug, weapon arrest

On Thursday around 11 a.m., the Rowan County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and Department of Homeland Security executed a state search warrant at 1131 Meadowcreek Drive in China Grove.

The search warrant was considered a high risk entry, according to the sheriff, so the nearby Millbridge Elementary School was placed on a Code Yellow Lockdown.

The search was the culmination of a two week investigation into large scale opioid drug trafficking, and the sale of firearms originating from the residence.

Barry Ray Howard, 58, was charged.

During the course of the investigation, investigators were able to purchase large amounts of oxymorphone and other drugs from Howard, as well as a .38 handgun, with an obliterated serial number.

An SBI Special Response Team and Bomb Disposal team made entry into the residence, where Howard was apprehended.

Five handguns, one rifle, two  shotguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were recovered from within the residence.

Despite concerns that explosives were present, none were found, according to the sheriff.

Investigators also located hundreds of dosage units of prescription pain medications, clearly being diverted from seemingly legitimate purchases to black market distribution.

Many of these bottles of medication were in the names of individuals, known as "smurfers," that were obtaining the drugs from area doctors.

Approximately $900 in cash was found inside the residence.  An additional $5,000 was found in a safe deposit box, after the execution of a second search warrant at a bank in Landis, North Carolina.

Barry  Howard was federally charged with Felon in Possession of a Firearm related to the sale of the .38 caliber  handgun on May 2, 2014.

Howard was transported by investigators with the Sheriff's Office and ATF Agents to Greensboro for an initial appearance.

Howard has an extensive criminal history in Rowan and Cabarrus counties for drug trafficking, and being a habitual offender, among others.