Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Charles Hewell testified Friday that he and Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon were running parallel to one another to find four people July 7, 2019, who ran from a stolen car.
"As I come onto Highland (Avenue) ... I hear him yell, 'Hey sarge, I have one.' He's about two houses in front of me, so I begin to run towards him," Hewell testified.
"OK. And then what happened?" Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson asked.
"As I get close to Blane, I hear shots fired from the suspect that he made contact with."
Hewell said he could sense that the shots were coming from the back of the house.
"I believe Dixon knew where I was at because he turned around and saw me,” Hewell said. “I then began to run around the house, the opposite direction of the gunfire, because I believed that either the shooter was going to stay there on the back side of the house and continue shooting or he was going to shoot there and run away."
Hewell’s testimony came during the fourth day of the Dixon murder trial concerning suspects Hector Garcia-Solis, 19, London Clements, 18, and Eric Velazquez, 19. A fourth man, Brayan Cruz, 19, had his case severed from the other three suspects and testified earlier in the week.
Garcia-Solis is accused of firing multiple rounds with one shot hitting Dixon. Garcia-Solis was also hit multiple times in the exchange of gunfire and was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in critical condition, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The shootoutAgencies across Hall County had responded to a series of burglaries at pawn shops and car dealerships in July 2019 which involved stolen firearms, crossbows, cars and other items. A Sheriff’s Office investigator testified Tuesday that tracking devices had been placed on some of the stolen vehicles by law enforcement prior to the events of July 7.
The indictment alleges that the four defendants gathered that night and traveled together in a stolen vehicle with stolen guns, wearing masks, gloves and other clothing to conceal their identities.
Hewell testified that Dixon was behind the vehicle on Queen City Parkway heading toward Interstate 985, while the sergeant was on Atlanta Highway at Industrial Boulevard and believed the group might move toward the interstate.
Hewell said the car made a turn onto Aviation Boulevard which runs in between the areas of Queen City Parkway and Atlanta Highway. The sergeant said he turned on his blue lights and attempted to block their path to curb the possibility of a chase.
"Unfortunately, I came up. I stopped too soon, and the vehicle was able to go around me,” Hewell said. “Deputy Dixon then turned on his blue lights as the vehicle went around me, and we began to pursue the vehicle."
The chase would eventually end up in the area of Highland Avenue, where the suspects were running from the car and jumping fences, Hewell said.
Hewell was running behind the houses that face Highland Avenue while Dixon was parallel on the avenue. He scanned the area with his flashlight and saw Dixon run by him.
Hewell said he was feet away from Dixon when the deputy was shot, estimating the distance from the witness stand to Robertson in the courtroom.
"I feel like as he turned around and faced me, if I had stayed there two more seconds, I could have grabbed him by the vest and brought him with me,” Hewell said.
Hewell said he heard what sounded like someone firing all the rounds out of their magazine. Going down the right side of the house, Hewell came face to face with Garcia-Solis. The sergeant tried to stop but was skidding on the grass because of the recent heavy rain.
"I begin shooting at Hector as I'm skiing and falling to my butt,” Hewell said. “Essentially, I'm sliding and my feet are going out from underneath me and I'm falling to my butt. I land on my butt and I'm continuing shooting, and the suspect will not go down."
Hewell said he emptied his magazine and reloaded while Garcia-Solis started to run away across the street. The sergeant stood up again and fired twice as the suspect was running away, he said.
Hewell continued to chase after the suspect, running to the right side of a car so that he has some cover.
As he made contact with Garcia-Solis again, Hewell told him repeatedly to show his hands and stop moving.
Hewell said he made the decision that he wasn't going to let Garcia-Solis "put any more lives in danger,” saying he would take the shot if the suspect lunged for anything or made a move to where a weapon would be.
"I'm not going to let him get to that house,” Hewell said. “I'm not going to let him jump this fence and circle back to Deputy Dixon and shoot him again if he has another firearm on him. I'm not going to let him jump this fence and hijack a car that he sees and take someone hostage. I'm not going to let him jump this fence and come back to me and circle back around me and ambush me like he just did to Deputy Dixon."
Hewell said he was going to have to shoot Garcia-Solis in the head “because I just shot him multiple times, or what I believe is multiple times in the body, and he didn’t go down.”
“So I didn’t know if he was wearing body armor,” Hewell said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
“OK. And so did you do that?” Robertson asked. Hewell said he did.
The sergeant called for a medical unit for Garcia-Solis as he turned his attention back to Dixon, who was put in a patrol car and rushed to the hospital.
'The worst thing that can happen'
When Hewell got to the hospital, Dixon was in surgery. He and others prayed in the emergency room "that God would work magic through the surgeon's hands and would be able to bring Blane back."
They were told later that Dixon didn’t make it.
"The sheriff was there, and I just gave him a big hug and I (wept) in his arms,” Hewell said. “My best friend and my co-worker had just died in the line of duty, and the worst thing that can happen to you as a watch commander is for someone that you're responsible for, for their life to be taken. I can't explain to you the type of grief that that is."
Robertson showed Dixon’s vest Friday, which Hewell recognized because of the name tag and "sheepdog patch."
"Law enforcement officers, we often call ourselves 'sheepdog' and the community is our herd, and we are protecting our community just like a sheepdog protects their herd,” Hewell said. “So when I became a sergeant, I decided to have a patch, a sheepdog patch, and every month whenever a deputy just did a really outstanding job on a case, I'd pick one of my guys and I'd give them that patch, and they would wear it for the entirety of the month."
Hewell said he used it as a way to motivate people to train and become better deputies, adding that Blane had earned it for the month of June.
The jury stopped hearing evidence after 4 p.m. Friday, and Superior Court Judge Jason Deal instructed the jury to return at 9 a.m. Monday, June 28.