Hector Garcia-Solis will have a lifetime to wonder why he shot Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon.
“I just don’t get why it was him and not me … a fool like me,” Garcia-Solis told the courtroom Thursday during sentencing in Dixon’s murder.
Dixon’s wife, Stephanie Dixon, later in testimony responded, describing the restless cries of her little boy at night: “Why my daddy?”
The sentencing hearing July 8 in Judge Jason Deal’s courtroom in Hall County Superior Court was full of emotional testimony from all sides.
There were pleas for leniency from the family of those responsible for the Hall County Sheriff’s deputy’s death while Dixon’s family and friends requested the maximum sentence. Those convicted in the case were 17 at the time, making the maximum sentence life without parole.
Garcia-Solis, who admitted to shooting Dixon, addressed Dixon’s family, saying “I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done to y’all” and saying he asks Dixon for forgiveness in his prayers.
“I do not forgive y’all at all,” Dixon’s father, Fred Dixon, said later.
Garcia-Solis along with Eric Velazquez was found guilty July 1 of malice murder in the July 7, 2019, death of Dixon. Co-defendant London Clements was found guilty of felony murder. Garcia-Solis admitted to pulling the trigger.
Clements and Velazquez were both sentenced July 8 to life in prison with the chance of parole.
Velazquez and Garcia-Solis were also convicted of a series of burglaries at pawn shops and car dealerships the day before the shooting. Velazquez’s total sentence was life plus 47.5 years.
Parole cannot be considered until after 30 years.
“The whole thing was a tragedy, but we’re pleased with the sentences that were the recommendations that we made,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance said after the hearing. “While nothing will ever really make this right, we feel like the sentence protects the community.”
In addressing Garcia-Solis during the sentence, Judge Deal referenced the courage of Dixon, paused to compose his emotions, and said, "Mr. Garcia, you didn't show courage." The courageous thing would have been to stop, the judge said, rather than run.
Deal, a Superior Court judge since 2005, said he had never sentenced a 17-year-old to life without parole, before giving Garcia-Solis that sentence.
Co-defendant Brayan Cruz, 19, had his case severed before the trial and testified during the trial for the prosecution, though no offers were made for the testimony. Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh did not say what would happen with Cruz’s case, citing the fact that it is still considered an open case.
In impact statements, Dixon’s family spoke of his life and how the loss has affected them.
“No one had the right to take him away from me,” his mother Jada Dixon said, describing the emptiness in Dixon’s family where Blane should be.
Dixon followed a stolen car that night that had tracking devices before the suspects ran in the Highland Avenue area of Gainesville. Blane’s father said it would have taken just one of them “sitting in that car not running, and that would have been enough to stop my son and end the chase.”
Blane’s older brother, Zack, described him as loving life more than anybody, someone who brightened any room and had a contagious smile and laugh. The last communication Zack had with his brother was a message from Blane wishing him a happy birthday.
He went on to describe his brother’s relationship with his boys, one who loved practicing baseball with his dad and the other who was born premature and got just 103 days with his father before his father was killed.
Zack Dixon also told the courtroom he does not forgive those convicted in his brother’s death.
Zack’s wife, Kayla, said they should not get the chance to live outside in the free world when they robbed Blane Dixon of that.
Blane Dixon’s younger brother, Jeremy, spoke on behalf of himself and his son, who was 6 at the time of Blane Dixon’s death.
“I miss my uncle. He was nice to me, he would play with me, that’s why I want the bad guys to stay in jail,” Jeremy Dixon read from his child’s statement.
Jeremy Dixon, speaking to those responsible for his brother’s death said "your words mean nothing," and that actions show what they really meant.
“You’ve affected a family in a way that can never be mended,” his youngest brother, Jeremy, testified. “You’ve taken so much, but at the same time we are one of the strongest families there is, so this will not break us. This will not end us. We will keep striving and we will keep moving, and Blane’s name will never be forgotten.”
Garcia-Solis’s mother testified in Spanish, asking for a second opportunity for her son and saying he didn't think of all the consequences.
“From the very beginning, he’s already paying for the mistake he made,” she said. “His regret is clear.”
On the stand, Garcia-Solis said he wished he knew “why I would do such a thing to someone like that, why I would take a life.”
Vance questioned Garcia-Solis about spitting at others, flipping them off, kicking, grabbing at women and pointing with his fingers in the shape of a gun when he was in custody. Garcia-Solis said he didn’t remember most of those incidents. Vance called a battery of law enforcement officers and a hospital employee to the stand who described those behaviors.
Vance also asked him why he didn’t plead guilty to malice murder since he admitted what happened was his fault. Garcia-Solis said he didn’t have “malice in him,” and if he did he would have brought the big guns, referring to that night Dixon was shot.
Vance later, speaking directly to Garcia-Solis told him he was shooting finger guns at officers after killing their friend. A photo displayed in court showed Solis flipping someone off from his hospital bed.
Velazquez’s sister and a family friend described Velazquez as a teen who made mistakes but who was not the monster the state painted him to be.
"He really didn't have nobody to look up to," Velazquez’s sister told the courtroom, saying he lived with his grandmother. His mother was deported when he was 3, and their father also was deported, she said. A family friend also described his home life, saying he didn’t have the same opportunities as those with two parents at home.
“He's so dumb. He get on my nerves for real," Velazquez’s sister said when asked by defense attorney Jason Wilson about the crimes, adding that he’s still her big brother who she looks up to. She described a call from Velazquez right before he got arrested in which he told her to “keep her head up.”
Vance asked both witnesses whether they were aware Velazquez’s grandmother helped load up some of the stolen guns the day after the murder that have been key to the case. Both said they were not aware of that.
Vance later argued a hard childhood does not excuse the maliciousness of the crime.
"As a mother, my heart breaks because of this case, but everyone knows right from wrong," Vance said, lecturing Velazquez about his bad choices.
Sgt. Charles Hewell, who was on the scene with Dixon that night, described emotional stress he and his family have endured since that night, including his stress in responding to calls in the area where Dixon was murdered.
Hewell said he believes the defendants stopped listening to the voice inside them that guides people between right and wrong. He accused Garcia-Solis of wanting the “street cred” of shooting a law enforcement officer.
"When you pass, there will be no parade," he said, contrasting that with Dixon’s well attended funeral and procession as well as memorials in his name marking his heroism.
He and members of the Dixon family asked for the maximum sentence.
“Why should I have to live the life they chose for me if they don’t have to live the one (they) chose for them?” Jada Dixon asked.
Editor in chief Shannon Casas contributed to this article.