Woman recounts eerie possible encounter with Athens park gunman


Juan Joseph Daniele Castellano

By Joe Johnson

An Athens woman had an unsettling encounter earlier this month with a man who she believes to be the gunman who created terror at a park last weekend before being shot and killed by police.

Sara Ivy, 43, a single mother of teenagers said on the night of May 1 she was sitting on the porch of her Old Winterville Road home, having a smoke, when a large man quietly stepped out of the shadows from the side of the house and began talking to her.

The man said that he just got out of jail and was looking for a way to get home.

The woman pointed out to the man a store located down the street where he could go if he needed anything and bluffed the man by saying “there’s a whole bunch of big people in the house, so don’t come up here anymore, okay?”

The man then slinked back into the darkness from where he came.

Ivy, a previous victim of crime, said she recorded the encounter for possible evidence in case the man did something to her.

“I was like, this guy is about to kill me and no one will know,” she said.


Ivy said she called 911 and gave a screenshot of the stranger to an officer who drove around looking for him with no success.

Then on Sunday, when police shot and killed a man not far from Ivy’s house, the woman said she wondered if it might have been the stranger who came to her house three weeks earlier.

The man, identified by authorities as 38-year-old Athens resident Juan Joseph Daniele Castellano, reportedly went with a rifle to Virginia Callaway-Cofer Walker Park off Trail Creek Street where authorities said he committed an armed robbery, pointed the gun at several people that included children and then carjacked a woman’s vehicle at gunpoint.

When officers located Castellano in the stolen vehicle still inside the park, Castellano got out with the rifle and began shouting demands at officers, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“Officers gave numerous commands to surrender,” the GBI said. “Castellano refused to comply. During the incident, shots were fired. Castellano was shot and died at the scene.

Ivy said, “The minute I heard something was going on there, I figured it was the same guy” who had frightened her a few weeks earlier.

She said when she saw Castellano's photo on the Classic City News website on Monday, he immediately looked familiar.

"The minute I saw the pic I thought it was him," she said.

Ivy said she showed the screenshot of the stranger and the photo of Castellano to a friend who agreed it appeared to be the same person.


A screenshot from a May 1 video of a man believed to be the Walker Park gunman

In addition to the Walker Park incident, ACCPD was trying to determine whether Castellano was the same person who was involved in gun-related incidents the night before he was killed.

Police said they were notified at 5:19 p.m. Saturday that a man was walking around Vine Street and trying to get into altercations with strangers while holding a rifle.

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.

Ivy thinks that the way she managed to keep her cool when confronted by the stranger may have saved her life.

“Him saying he just got out of jail was the scariest thing he could’ve possibly said to me,” she said “I used my ‘Mom’ voice on him, which I think is more effective than escalating with a gun.”

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