Police: Stolen guns, Ga. deputy's shooting death linked
Two of the suspects have had recent run-ins with law enforcement
By Nick Watson
The Times, Gainesville, Ga.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Three of four teenagers charged with felony murder in the death of Hall County Deputy Nicolas Dixon appeared before a Magistrate Court judge Tuesday, July 9. One of the teens had been previously charged within the past month with possession of a firearm by someone under the age of 18.
Eric Velazquez, Brayan Omar Cruz and London Clements, all 17, appeared before Magistrate Court Judge Elizabeth Reisman on a video call between the courthouse and the jail.
The 17-year-old authorities believe was the shooter, Hector Garcia-Solis, was still in the hospital being treated for gunshot wounds, but he is expected to survive.
After a reading of the charge, Reisman asked if the defendants wanted a committal hearing, plea or trial.
Reisman set a committal hearing in the case for Aug. 16 for Velazquez and Cruz.
Clements asked for a plea during the video call. He was being assigned a public defender.
Police also confirmed Tuesday that a burglary at a Shallowford Road pawn shop involving more than 25 firearms is connected to Dixon’s case.
Police received a burglary report around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, July 6, at Double Deuce Pawn on Shallowford Road. Employees found the front door had been forced open.
“At least 25 various firearms were stolen. It’s still an active investigation and a full inventory of missing items is incomplete,” Cpl. Jessica Van wrote in an email.
Van added that the preliminary investigation “has determined this incident is connected to the incident involving Deputy Dixon.”
The incident that led to Dixon’s death Sunday night began when officers attempted to pull over a car suspected to have been used in several home and vehicle burglaries over the weekend, including a "large number of firearms," Sheriff Gerald Couch said. The car fled, crashed, and its occupants fled on foot and were pursued by deputies along Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville.
A shootout ensued in the front yard of a home in the area of Highland Avenue, with Dixon and another deputy exchanging gunfire with Garcia-Solis, authorities said. Dixon, 28, was shot and killed.
"After refusing to follow Deputy Dixon's verbal commands to show his hands, the offender disappeared briefly back behind the residence and did suddenly reappear and open fire. Deputy Dixon was struck by one round below his ballistic vest as he returned fire," Couch said.
Dixon was taken by patrol car to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where he died. The other deputy involved in the shooting was uninjured. He has been placed on administrative leave, Couch said, which is routine for officer-involved shootings.
A second suspect, Cruz, was tracked by dogs to another residence in the area and taken into custody.
Two other suspects were found Monday at residences off of Cleveland Highway in North Hall and Cresthill Drive in Flowery Branch. They were identified as, respectively, Velazquez and Clements.
Garcia-Solis faces a charge of felony murder, while the other three suspects are facing charges of party to a crime of felony murder.
The Times has learned two of the suspects have had recent run-ins with law enforcement.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth said Garcia-Solis had been arrested June 27 and released July 2 on charges related to DUI.
Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard accused Velasquez June 18 of being in possession of a handgun by a person under the age of 18.
According to court documents, this alleged incident took place May 3.
Each of the four teenage suspects had at one time been enrolled in the Hall County School District, according to spokesman Stan Lewis.
“All had attended multiple schools during their time with the school system, and all had withdrawn from all Hall County district schools between December of 2017 and April of 2019,” Lewis told The Times.
Because all the suspects are underage, Lewis said, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974, prohibits the school district from sharing any potential disciplinary records with the public.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Officer Dixon. Flags at all of our Hall County Schools are flying at half-mast in his honor,” Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said in a statement.
©2019 The Times, Gainesville, Ga.