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Shooting shocks area soccer league
Saul  Castillo
Saul Merdez Castillo

A confrontation at a Sunday soccer game that left one man dead and another in custody has shocked area players, coaches and fans, a local coach said.

“Everybody is in shock right now,” coach Ramiro Ortiz said. “We’ve never had some kind of problem like that.”

Police charged Saul Merdez Castillo, 41, with murder in the shooting of Silverio Acosta, 46, of Gainesville.

Ortiz coaches the “Aztlan” team in the Liga Sol, or Sol League, and was present at the game but left before the shooting, which he said took place during the postgame trophy ceremony.

Ortiz said that both men were spectators, supporting a team whose players were of El Salvadoran descent in the final round of the tournament in the Gainesville Organized Adult League.

“That problem came all the way from El Salvador. Those two guys had a problem from there. They knew each other from a long time ago,” Ortiz said.

Hall County investigators confirmed as much, but have not elaborated on what may have spurred the attack.

According to reporting from Univision in Atlanta, Acosta was a husband and father of three.

Ortiz said he hopes the incident doesn’t negatively impact the overall soccer community.

“The problem was not from the game, nothing to do with the game. All we know is those two guys had a problem in the past, and one of them made a terrible decision to take care of it on his own, that’s the sad thing,” Ortiz said.

Mario Menendez, head of GOAL, could not be reached for comment.

The Sol League is scheduled to play semifinals for a tournament, but Ortiz said he wasn’t sure if authorities would allow use of the park in the aftermath of the shooting.

“We don’t know what is going to happen. If the police let us go inside, we play the semifinals next Sunday, if they don’t let us go in, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Mike Little, director of Hall County Parks Parks & Leisure Services, settled that question, and said that games will be allowed Sunday.

Little is in talks with the Hall County Marshal’s Office about increasing security, however.

“For the peace of mind for everybody participating, we’ll probably have a couple additional marshals. But we’ve been hosting these games, facilitating these leagues for over a dozen years, and never had any major incidents; they played and enjoyed themselves. As I’ve said, we feel like this is an isolated incident,” Little said.

Castillo tried to leave the area but was stopped by two Hall County marshals who were working security, authorities said.

In addition to the murder charge, he has been charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Castillo was placed on an immigration hold, as he is not a legal resident, according to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Under the federal 287(g) program, persons charged with crimes who are not citizens of the U.S. can be detained and deported.

Acosta’s brother, in an interview with Univision, expressed a desire for a trial in Georgia.

Lee Darragh, district attorney for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit that covers Hall County, couldn’t speak specifically to Castillo’s case, but said that generally the “most serious of cases” stay in the state.

“Especially in the most serious of cases, even if a person is possibly subject to eventual deportation, he would be prosecuted in Georgia first and would have to serve his time upon conviction before any deportation,” Darragh said.

A July 19 committal hearing has been scheduled in Hall Magistrate Court, where a judge will decide whether to move the case to Hall Superior Court for possible further prosecution.

Castillo applied for indigent defense and has been appointed a public defender. He will be represented by attorneys Andy Maddox and Larry Duttweiler, Circuit Public Defender Brad Morris said.

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