Mike Little got the phone call 15 minutes after Sunday’s shooting at Tadmore Park in East Hall.
It was a worst-nightmare scenario for the Hall County Parks & Leisure Services director.
“Everybody was having such a good time. It was Father’s Day and you had people watching their dads play soccer,” Little said Monday. “It was just a tragic event.”
Police charged Saul Merdez Castillo, 41, with murder in the shooting of Silverio Acosta, 46, of Gainesville, a spectator at the game.
A first appearance court hearing was held Monday for Castillo, who is being held without bond at the Hall County Jail.
A July 19 committal hearing has been scheduled in Hall Magistrate Court. In a committal hearing, a magistrate decides whether to forward the case to Hall Superior Court for possible further prosecution.
Castillo also has been charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and he is on an immigration hold, as he is not a legal resident, according to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
The shooting took place about 4 p.m. at Tadmore Park, 3152 Gillsville Highway.
“As I understand, it was a tournament (going on at the time), because they had trophies and everything out there,” said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, sheriff’s office spokesman.
At some point, the victim and the suspect “confronted each other,” when a handgun was pulled and fired several times, authorities said.
“It appears the victim was unarmed” and had been shot at close range, Wilbanks said.
He declined to comment on what may have spurred the attack.
“We can’t release that right now because it is pertinent to the investigation itself,” Wilbanks said.
The shooting took place in front of other spectators, but no one else was injured.
“It was a pretty crowded area,” Wilbanks said.
Castillo tried to leave the area but was stopped by two Hall County marshals who were working security, Wilbanks said.
The marshals “were on the other side of the soccer field near the gate,” he said. “There’s only one way in and one way out, and the (shooter) was running toward (the marshals) and they took him into custody at gunpoint.”
Capt. Andre Niles with the Hall County Marshal’s Office declined to comment on the case, deferring to the sheriff’s office.
Investigators are trying to determine the relationship between Castillo and Acosta.
“I don’t think they were very well acquainted here,” Wilbanks said.
He said on Sunday: “There’s evidently a history between these two individuals that goes back to El Salvador, the full extent of which we don’t know yet. Investigators are still conducting interviews.”
Gainesville Organized Adult League was using the park on Sunday, Little said.
The contact for that group is Mario Menendez, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
Tadmore Park, which is between Harmony Church and Holly Springs roads, was closed as part of county budget cuts two years ago, “but we have used (it) for youth tournament and adult league overflow,” Little said.
“We’ve got over 50 adult league teams within the area,” he said. “We don’t maintain (Tadmore) and the only utility that’s on (there) is water. And the only time (the park) is open is when we have a scheduled activity.”
As far as the marshals’ presence Sunday, “we require any adult leagues renting our facilities to have security,” Little said.