HALL COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Residents and law enforcement across north Georgia are in mourning after a 28-year-old Hall County deputy was shot and killed in the line of duty late Sunday evening.
"There are simply no words to Express the profound grief that this loss brings each of us," Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said Monday.
Deputy Nicholas Blane Dixon, a three-year member of the Hall County Sheriff's Office, had transferred from the jail to the patrol division about nine months ago. Just four short months ago, he welcomed his second son into the world, but Monday, Sheriff Couch said a gunman left his baby son and 9-year-old son without a father and his wife, a widow.
"He was an outstanding deputy. He was always the one who rushed to the trouble to help people as we do in this profession and he lived up to every bit of that," the sheriff said.
Flags are flying at all Hall County government buildings at half-staff as the community comes together to mourn. Officials have organized a candlelight vigil Tuesday night for the fallen deputy as his family now plans for funeral and burial services.
"We are a family. This is a law enforcement family and he was a very valuable member of this agency. We will miss him," the sheriff said holding in his emotions.
The sheriff described the details which led to Deputy Dixon's untimely death. Around 11:09 p.m. Sunday, Deputy Dixon spotted a car which was reported stolen. The sheriff said the four people inside were believed to have been involved in a number of thefts, with one involving a large number of firearms.
The sheriff said the driver of the car, 17-year-old Hector Garcia-Solis, refused to stop, speeding away. After a brief pursuit, Garcia-Solis wrecked the car along Jesse Jewell Parkway and Center Avenue, the sheriff said. The four occupants then scattered, running away from the pursuing deputies.
Sheriff Dixon said Deputy Dixon and another deputy caught up with Garcia-Solis on Highland Avenue near Hazel Drive, less than a 1,000 feet from the crash. That's when the sheriff said Garcia-Solis fired a single shot, striking Deputy Dixon just below his ballistic vest. The other deputy was able to return fire, striking the suspect multiple times.
Deputy Dixon was put into the patrol car of one of his colleagues and rushed to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He was later pronounced dead.
Garcia-Solis was also taken to the hospital in critical condition, but as of late Monday afternoon, the sheriff's office believes his injuries are not life-threatening.
Eight hours after the crash, deputies said a K-9 was able to track the second suspect, identified 17-year-old Brayan Omar Cruz, to a residence in the same area. Deputies said he was hiding under a house.
As the morning progressed, hundreds of law enforcement officers from various local, state, and federal agencies join the manhunt for the remaining two suspects and began the process of investigating and putting together a timeline of events which lead to the deadly shooting.
By mid-afternoon, the sheriff was able to finally announce the other two suspects, identified as London Clements and Eric Edgardo Velazquez, both 17, were taken into custody. Deputies said Clements was found at his home on Cresthill Drive in Flowery Branch while Velazquez was apprehended at a home off of U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway in north Hall County.
All four suspects face felony murder charges. Cruz, Clements, and Velazquez face party to a crime charges.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate the officer-involved shooting. Agents said this is the second time an officer has been killed in the line of duty in the state this year.
The sheriff's office said they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from multiple local, state, and federal agencies in the support of the search and investigation. They added they are thankful for the outpouring of love from the community.
All are being invited to come together Tuesday evening at the Hall County Law Enforcement Center located 2859 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville.
Visitation will be held Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Memorial Park Funeral Home. Dixon will be laid to rest on Thursday after a funeral service at 11 a.m. at Free Chapel Worship Center on McEver Road.