With one year gone, Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said the death of Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon is “still very raw for everyone in the department.”
“Not a day goes by where we don’t think about him,” Couch said in a statement.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Charles Hewell visited the gravesite Tuesday, July 7, of his partner and friend. He later met with others who knew the outgoing 28-year-old man, sharing stories of the deputy who was always smiling.
“He was years ahead of where he should have been as far as mindset for a patrolman. … He was ahead of the curve, so to speak,” Hewell said.
More than 30 “blue line” American flags were raised in his memory at Memorial Park Funeral Home.
“The heaviness in our hearts has not diminished nor has his absence gone unnoticed over the year since he was killed in the line of duty,” Couch said in a statement. “His dedication to our agency and his sacrifice for our community were great and will never be forgotten.”
Dixon, 28, died July 8, 2019, after pursuing four men in an allegedly stolen vehicle on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Dixon and another deputy reached the suspects on Highland Avenue. Dixon was shot one time in an exchange of gunfire, according to the GBI.
Four men have been charged with murder, and their case is still pending.
Superior Court Judge Jason Deal recently denied the defense’s motion to change the trial’s venue, and the courthouse has still not allowed any trials/grand juries to proceed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, retired precinct commander Brad Rounds recalled a memory from two days before Dixon’s death. The retired captain was in his office working on the budget when Dixon poked his head around the corner of Rounds’ door with a big grin.
After a few laughs, Dixon thanked Rounds for giving him a chance on patrol, where he found what he loved to do.
“Knowing that an entire year has already passed, it’s hard to wrap your mind around it, because it seems like just last month we were dealing with it,” Rounds said.
Some days are harder than others, Hewell said of the past year. For the first few months, the sergeant said he felt butterflies in his stomach when driving by that area near Jesse Jewell Parkway.
“To have your brother die in the line of duty is tough, especially as close as that shift was. We collectively have made the decision (to) continue to honor Blane in our work,” Hewell said.
Speaking from his three decades of experience in law enforcement, Rounds said officers are faced with having a mindset of being perpetually vigilant.
“It’s a tough life to go on every call with that kind of mindset. It’s wearing on you, but you have to because you have to keep yourself alive,” he said.
Senate Resolution 844 seeks to dedicate the bridge on Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 as Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon Memorial Bridge and to authorize the Georgia Department of Transportation to put up signs at the structure.
“I think naming this iconic and significant structure in Hall County for the late Deputy Dixon is very appropriate,” State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville previously told The Times. “After all, this bridge is a significant and enduring structure in Hall County, and Deputy Dixon's service and memory should be as such.”
The resolution passed both houses and was sent to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk June 29.
The legislature also passed House Bill 838 regarding “bias motivated intimidation” based on the person’s “actual or perceived employment as a first responder” -- that could be serious bodily harm or damage to that person’s property exceeding $500.
The penalty for bias motivated intimidation would be one to five years in prison, a maximum of $5,000 or both. It would also run consecutive to any other sentence imposed.
The bill was sent to Kemp’s desk June 25.
“It should have been like that a long time ago, but the public has to understand, too, what we’re up against out here and what we have to deal with on a daily basis. And I think they do, I really do. In our community, I think they understand the challenges that are faced right now,” Rounds said.
Hewell said he has felt lucky to be in a community that even before Dixon’s death was appreciative of its law enforcement.
“After Blane’s passing, the community has really stepped up. I usually don’t go a single day of working a shift without someone thanking me for what we do, especially (Tuesday),” Hewell said.
Dixon and Hewell would often work the same off-duty jobs as ways to provide for their families. Hewell said he has tried to keep in touch with Dixon’s family over the past year.
“I did lose a very good friend and a very good partner, but I did gain another family in the Dixons. And I’m grateful for that that I have been able to be as close as I have to them,” he said.
The North Georgia Community Foundation announced the Blane Dixon Fallen Heroes Fund this week to support families of first responders killed in the line of duty.
First responders were defined as firefighters, EMS personnel as well as municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement serving Hall County.
“At the Foundation we help people invest in the lives of those who call our community home," North Georgia Community Foundation CEO and president Michelle Prater said in a statement. "In this instance, we feel strongly about supporting the first responders who protect our community every day and are proud to have made the initial contribution to this fund. We encourage others to use this fund as an avenue to give back to our local heroes while also fulfilling their own charitable giving goals.”
Contributions to the fund can be made through ngcf.org/donate or contacting the foundation at 770-535-7880.