Hall County Sheriff’s Officer Nicolas Blane Dixon, who was slain this week in the line of duty, has been universally regarded as a kind-hearted, caring husband, father, son, brother and law enforcement officer by all those who knew him.
That includes locals who live on the fringes of society, outcasts in their own neighborhoods, including Darren Kiger.
Kiger, 53, has been homeless intermittently over the last year, sometimes living on the streets of Gainesville when he doesn’t have a bed to sleep in and a roof over his head.
Kiger walks with a cane, frequently moving between the city’s industrial heart of midtown and the downtown square, a purple cross swinging from the end of his long black necklace as he moves.
Kiger has an easy-going disposition, personable and friendly. But he was choked up, teary eyed and saddened Wednesday morning as he read the headlines reporting Dixon’s death.
Kiger and Dixon worked together at ZF Wind Power in Gainesville some years ago.
“We were friends … long before he became an officer,” Kiger said. “We used to laugh and joke all the time as we worked on the clutch line. And one day he came in and said, ‘I’m going to go be a sheriff’s deputy.’”
Kiger wished him well, and that was that – until happenstance intervened.
“Several years later, I ran into him,” Kiger said. “And, sure enough, there he was in uniform. And he not only gave me a smile, he gave me a bear hug. When I was at my very worst, he was at his very best.”
Dixon’s kind and generous gesture made Kiger feel like “I was the mayor of the town.”
“When you’re out here on the streets, you don’t have many friends,” Kiger said.
Kiger added that Dixon was a friend to Gainesville’s homeless, and that he will be missed “not only because he was a slain officer, but because he was my friend.”