Updated: May 29, 2021
By Joe Johnson
The Athens-Clarke County Police Department on Friday released video footage from surveillance and officer body-worn cameras of a gunman who terrorized people Sunday morning at a park in east Athens, where he carjacked a woman and was fatally shot when confronted by officers but failed to comply with their orders to drop the gun.
Police also released 911 calls from people the night prior to the incident in which they reported the apparant same man was walking around with a rifle, which he used to shoot at a car occupied by a woman, who was not injured.
Authorities identified the gunman as 38-year-old Athens resident Juan Joseph Daniele Castellano.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, officers shot and killed Castellano after the suspect terrorized people at Virgina Walker Park off Trail Creek Street.
Prior to being shot, the man threatened several people in the park, including children, with a rifle and committed an armed robbery and carjacking, the GBI said.
When officers located the stolen vehicle, Castellano got out of the vehicle with the rifle and began shouting demands at officers, according to the GBI.
“Officers gave numerous commands to surrender,” the GBI said. “Castellano refused to comply. During the incident, shots were fired. Castellano was shot and died on scene.
No officers or civilians were reported to have been injured during the incident.
Police are investigating to see if the man was the same person who walked around an area near the park holding a rifle Saturday evening.
Police said they were notified at 5:19 p.m. that the man was walking around Vine Street and trying to get into altercations with strangers while holding the gun.
As officers searched for the man, police said they received a call from Walker Park concerning a male shooting at a female in her car, according to the release. The female, who was not injured, fled the area and met with officers.
Police said they closed the park and officers made an extensive ground search, with the aid of a K-9 unit and aerial drones but were unable to locate the male
The police release did not mention an apparent armed robbery that occurred at Walker Park prior to the carjacking and fatal shooting.
However, a 28-year-old woman who was with her two young sons during the incident told Classic Citty News that at about 10:20 a.m. she was seated under an umbrella near the park’s splash pad where her children were playing when she saw a man come from the back of the park or from the woods
According to the woman, the man was talking to himself and appeared unkempt. As he approached her, the woman said she noticed that the man was holding a pistol with an extended magazine, which he concealed with a camouflage jacket that was draped over the weapon.
He reportedly asked the woman two times, “Are you throwing gang signs?”
“He was saying things that didn’t make sense and he pointed the gun at me,” she said, “I was staring down the barrel of a gun and praying I didn’t get shot.”
The witness said the man then went to where two teenage boys were minding a cash box at the entrance to the splash pad area and robbed them of the box at gunpoint.
The woman said she warned others in the park about the armed man and called 911.
The woman said that when officers arrived, the man went up a hill toward a parking lot, pointing the gun at people along the way.
After officers arrived, they went toward where the man had gone and then three gunshots rang out, the woman said.
The witness did not know what happened next because the police cleared everyone from the park.
“Those teens at the entrance were petrified and all the kids there were scared,” she said. “One of my sons said to me, ‘Mommy, I don’t ever want to come back to this park again.’”