Under the cover of a torrential downpour in 2019, a pair of Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators placed tracking devices on two cars believed to be connected to a crime spree involving at least 25 stolen firearms.
“Everybody had been looking for these guns,” Assistant District Attorney Harold Buckler said during the opening of the trial in the slaying death of Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon.
“Every time any of the officers got into work, they were told, ‘We need to find these guns. We need to stop this group that is getting more and more brazen and more and more dangerous.’”
Sheriff’s Office investigator Brett Roach met July 7, 2019, with some of the members of the oncoming night patrol shift, including Deputy Dixon.
“The last thing he said was, ‘We’ll get ‘em for you, Brett,’” Roach testified Tuesday, June 22.
Roach was the first witness called in the trial for three of the four Gainesville men indicted in the murder: Hector Garcia-Solis, 19, London Clements, 18, and Eric Velazquez, 19.
The fourth man, Brayan Cruz, 19, had his case severed, according to court documents.
All four have been charged with malice murder among other counts in the August 2019 indictment.
At times holding up Dixon’s vest to the jury, Buckler said the deputy was a bit nervous when beginning work that night.
“He was worried that there was a very real chance that things were going to go bad for him that night,” Buckler said.
Buckler described an alleged “crew of criminals” that started with car thefts and evolved to bigger targets, such as breaking into car dealerships and using stolen vehicles to rip the doors off of a pawn shop. The assistant district attorney said 27 guns — rifles, shotguns and handguns — were put on the streets.
“The plan was to get money, to get guns and to get away, to get away no matter what the cost was,” Buckler said. “And we know what the cost was.”
Buckler said the jury would likely meet the fourth person in the indictment, Cruz, who may testify. Buckler clarified that there were no offers made for the testimony.
“This is not a story of one person shooting Blane Dixon with a stolen .45 semiautomatic handgun. That’s part of the story,” Buckler said as he paced and pointed at the defendants. “... Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the case about who is the most guilty. This is not a case like that.”
Showing videos and photos overhead, the prosecution walked through the allegations of vehicle crimes and burglaries in the week ahead of the fatal shooting, including entering a DeKalb County Police crime scene vehicle.
In the early afternoon and evening of July 7, 2019, Roach was one of the investigators on call.
Investigators had been digging into the string of auto thefts and burglaries that involved firearms, Roach said.
“In the meantime, the same people were believed to be stealing cars and stashing them around the county, and so (the investigator) said he had located two vehicles — two of the stolen vehicles — and wanted to put some trackers on them,” Roach said.
The indictment alleges that the four defendants gathered July 7, 2019, and traveled together in a stolen vehicle with stolen guns, wearing masks, gloves and other clothing to conceal their identities.
Like other officers, Dixon saw that the stolen vehicle was moving. After seeing the car, which was driving through stop signs and red lights, Dixon turned on his lights and chased after the car, Buckler said.
The prosecution played the body camera footage from that night, in which the jury could hear the clip-clop of the officers running and trying to catch their breath. The flashlight’s beam darts across the screen.
Authorities believe Dixon and another officer came into contact with Garcia-Solis, who allegedly fired multiple rounds. Dixon was shot once and succumbed to his injuries.
“This is not the case of one person pulling the trigger and shooting Blane Dixon,” Buckler said. “This is a case about a crew of people that got together to plan to commit crimes … and they were prepared to do whatever it took to get away.”
Deputy Dixon trial
This is day 2 of coverage of the murder trial of Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon. Read more trial coverage, dating back to the suspects' first court appearances on these charges in 2019, at gainesvilletimes.com/dixontrial.
Assistant public defender Matt Cavedon, one of two attorneys representing Garcia-Solis, said his client was “under the heat of being cornered behind a run-down house in a dark yard in a strange neighborhood with nowhere to go.”
Cavedon said Garcia-Solis was not professing innocence and would not contest most of the charges except malice murder, as Cavedon said he felt there was not evidence to prove malice.
Jason Wilson, the defense attorney representing Velazquez, said there would be no evidence linking his client to the murder.
“I understand the state’s desire to get vengeance for the horrible thing that happened to Deputy Dixon,” Wilson said. “But we’re going to be able to get vengeance. That’s the good news. Everybody is going to be able to get vengeance today: his family, his friends, the entire community. They are all going to be able to get vengeance by putting Hector in jail. But just don’t try and loop my client into it from any type of desire for vengeance. The facts are not going to support that claim.”
Velazquez and Garcia-Solis were charged in the indictment concerning burglaries at pawn shops and car dealerships.
“When it comes to these crimes, you are going to be hearing about a great deal of burglaries and thefts,” Wilson said. “… What I’m going to be asking you (to) do is analyze each one of these incidents independently, because a lot of crimes were committed during this time in the city of Gainesville. The state is going with a bit of a ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ argument.”
Beyond the allegations concerning the murder and a conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary, Clements faces no further charges in the indictment.
“They talk about the crew,” defense attorney Dan Sammons said regarding the prosecution’s opening statement. “I think what you will hear is the crew of two, not London Clements.”
Sammons also warned the jury about potentially conflicting stories from Cruz.
Deal stopped the presentation of evidence at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the judge asked for the jury to return at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, June 23.