Days after Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon was fatally shot, investigators executed a search warrant at a farm on Harmony Church Road, finding stolen guns and other items tied to a series of burglaries, according to court testimony.
That and other details emerged as the Dixon murder trial continued Wednesday, June 22, with investigators and representatives from businesses testifying about the timeline of events in the days surrounding the deputy’s slaying.
The trial for defendants Hector Garcia-Solis, 19, London Clements, 18, and Eric Velazquez, 19, kicked off Tuesday, June 21, before Superior Court Judge Jason Deal. A fourth man, Brayan Cruz, 19, had his case severed, according to court documents.
Prosecutors have described the suspects as a “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 to steal guns.
Deputy Dixon trial
This is day 3 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.
Oakwood Police Investigator Todd Templeton testified he received a call around 3:30 a.m. July 6, 2019, regarding an apparent burglary at the Swap and Trade Pawn on Atlanta Highway.
Templeton was familiar with the video surveillance system there because he — as a part-time job — had installed the equipment himself.
The investigators noticed the front doors of the business were damaged as well as a ratchet strap, which appeared to have been used to pull the doors open.
Templeton said the vehicle seen in the footage at the pawn shop was stolen from Los Plebes Auto Sales.
“There (were) two crossbows stolen from the business, and that’s what that individual just carried out and put in the back of the truck,” Templeton testified about surveillance footage being presented by Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance.
“Based on watching this and your knowledge … does it look like it took them one minute and three seconds to go inside this business, get those crossbows and get back out?” Vance asked, and Templeton agreed.
Templeton said the guns in Swap and Trade were inaccessible. As he and other agencies began investigating reports of similar burglaries in the area, Templeton said he had an “immediate concern” about suspects getting into a location that sold firearms.
“The manner in which the burglary occurred at Swap and Trade was just out in the open,” Templeton said. “It seemed very bold in the manner that it occurred, not typical of a typical burglary that I’ve worked in the past where someone tries to hide their actions.”
Police also received a burglary report around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, July 6, at Double Deuce Pawn on Shallowford Road. Employees found the front door had been forced open.
The owner of Los Plebes Auto Sales said he would typically go by his business outside of business hours to check on it because of prior break-ins. But the night before, the man said he went with some employees and family to the movies and didn’t go back to the business that night.
Velazquez and Garcia-Solis are charged with six counts of second-degree burglary concerning four car dealerships and two pawn shops, as well as an attempted burglary at Foxhole Guns and Archery. The indictment alleges all of this happened on July 6, 2019.
Garcia-Solis’ attorney Matt Cavedon focused on the timeline of events with Templeton, who established that it would take about 10-15 minutes to get between the car dealerships on Industrial Boulevard down to the pawn shop on Atlanta Highway.
Templeton said the logical conclusion was that Los Plebes would have been first followed by the car dealerships on Industrial Boulevard.
Jason Wilson continually asked law enforcement officers on the stand what evidence they discovered during the initial investigation that linked Velazquez to these crimes. Templeton said the suspect information was developed as investigators worked hand-in-hand on the burglaries.
Following a July 10, 2019, interview with law enforcement, a man led law enforcement to a cattle farm on Harmony Church Road, Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigator Brett Roach said.
After securing a search warrant, stolen guns and other items were found, including two crossbows reported stolen during the Oakwood pawn shop burglary, Roach said.
The jury stopped hearing evidence around 5 p.m. Wednesday and were instructed by Deal to return at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 23.