The death penalty cannot be sought for the four suspects accused in the shooting death of Hall County Deputy Nicolas Dixon, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said Thursday.
Hector Garcia-Solis, London Alexander Clements, Brayan Omar Cruz and Eric Edgardo Velazquez, all 17, have been charged with felony murder.
Darragh said their ages have been confirmed and that all four were born in the United States.
Under Georgia code, murder of a police officer is an aggravating circumstance that can support the DA’s imposition of a death penalty. But the Supreme Court ruled in a 2005 case, Roper v. Simmons, that the death penalty cannot be imposed on offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
“The murder of Deputy Dixon was the greatest of tragedies, and my heart is heavy for his family and all of the law enforcement community across our country in the loss of their own and our own. The District Attorney’s Office would pursue the imposition of the death penalty in this matter if the law permitted it. However, the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that I cannot do so,” Darragh wrote in a statement.
Any murder conviction carries a minimum life sentence, and parole cannot be considered for at least 30 years.
Additional charges are anticipated as the case progresses.
Dixon was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire in Gainesville Sunday night after pulling over a car and engaging in a foot pursuit with four suspects. Police have said the car was stolen, and a preliminary investigation has shown a pawn shop burglary in which a large number of firearms were stolen is connected.
Garcia-Solis, who is alleged to be the gunman, was wounded in the shootout and hospitalized.