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‘The kids loved him’: Family, Little League mourns coach killed in Ridgeview/Webster shooting

A 26-year-old San Diego man fatally shot at a liquor store last week is being remembered as a devoted father and beloved Little League coach.

Eric Carroll loved baseball so much that even though he didn’t have a child who was old enough to play, he volunteered to coach a Sunshine Little League team in City Heights.

Jose Lopez, president of the league, said Carroll was like a big brother to the players on his team, whose ages range from 13 to 15.

“The kids loved him,” Lopez said.

According to San Diego police, Carroll was shot about 1:30 a.m. on July 17 after he and another customer got into an argument at a liquor store on Federal Boulevard near 50th Street in Ridgeview/Webster neighborhood. Police said the assailant pulled out a gun and shot Carroll in his head as he walked out of the store.

A 33-year-old suspect, Ryan Myers, was arrested three days later. Myers, also known as Ryan Stewart, has been charged in San Diego Superior Court with murder. He also faces allegations that he killed Carroll for the benefit of a street gang and was a felon in possession of a gun, according to the criminal complaint.

Carroll was killed during a joyful moment in his life. His family and friends had just celebrated his daughter’s first birthday on July 16 at his father’s home in Chula Vista, according to Carroll’s brother.

Juan Vargas, 28, remembered his younger brother as a family man and a personable young man who could befriend anyone, regardless of their background. He described Carroll as the “life of the party” and said he uplifted anyone around him.

Vargas added that Carroll was ambitious — he set goals and was unafraid of failure.

“That’s the one thing I really admired about him,” Vargas said. “He believed in himself.”

Carroll worked in the craft beer industry and recently took a job with Boochcraft, a high-alcohol kombucha company.

Vargas said Carroll gravitated toward baseball when he was 6 or 7 years old. He loved the Padres.

About a year ago, Carroll walked up to Lopez and asked if he could coach a team. During his first season as a coach, in the fall, his team didn’t win a single game. But Carroll built a relationship with the players so strong they signed up for another season this past spring, Lopez said.

“For this kid to make a commitment to his community, to these kids, it was awesome,” Lopez said, adding that his son was on Carroll’s team and “really connected with him.”

Vargas said his brother’s passion for baseball drove him to coach Little League but that Carroll also enjoyed being able to mold teens into “standup members of our society, not just good baseball players.”

Vargas said his brother’s devotion to the Sunshine Little League, with nothing to gain except for fulfillment of a long-standing passion, speaks volumes for his character.

“That in itself will speak to any adult in our society that knows how hard it is to devote time to something when we have our day-to-day lives that we also live,” Vargas said.

Lopez said Carroll wanted to help grow the Sunshine Little League. One idea he had was to organize a camp at low cost or no cost to get kids off the streets during the summer. He added that Carroll couldn’t wait for his daughter to be 4 years old so she could play T-ball.

On Sunday, the league held a vigil that brought together players and Carroll’s family to honor him. They released balloons and spoke of Carroll’s impact on their lives as they stood on their home turf, the Sunshine Berardini Field.

“It was his happy place,” Lopez said.

The Sunshine Little League plans to emblazon hats with Carroll’s initials for the upcoming season.

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