Click the link at left to hear Sheriff Gerald Couch's full interview on WDUN's "Morning Talk with Martha Zoller."
The four teenagers arrested in connection with the death of Hall County Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon will likely face gang-related charges, Sheriff Gerald Couch said Tuesday morning.
Authorities aren’t certain if the teens are part of an organized gang, but under Georgia law, they can still be charged using the gang statute, Couch said during an appeared on WDUN’s “Morning Talk with Martha Zoller.”
“Two or more people engaged in criminal activity, that would come under the gang statute,” Couch said. “As we move forward, you may see those types of charged added.”
Dixon, 28, a three-year veteran of the department, was shot once in his abdomen below his ballistic vest. Fellow deputies rushed him via patrol car to Northeast Georgia Medical Center where he died of his injuries.
The incident occurred about 11 p.m. Sunday when two deputies attempted to make a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle believed to have been used in several weekend burglaries and entering auto incidents. The suspects’ vehicles crashed, and several suspects got out and ran. Officers exchanged gunfire with the suspects.
Hector Garcia-Solis, believed to be the gunman who killed Dixon, was also shot during the incident. He is in critical condition at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. Garcia-Solis is charged with felony murder.
Also arrested were Brayan Omar Cruz, London Clements and Eric Edgardo Velazquez, all of whom were charged with being party to the crime of felony murder.
All four suspects are 17 years old.
Couch said on the Zoller show that he has a request for all members of the Hall County community.
“I simply ask this of our community,” Couch said. “Every time you see a patrol car driving down the road, remember that the man or woman behind the wheel of that car is not just a faceless thing in a uniform. They’re members of our community, too. Their kids go to our schools. They shop at the same stores as us. They eat at the same restaurants, and they share the same pews in our churches. On that day you see that individual in that patrol car, they may be minutes away from a violent, life-changing encounter.”
Couch said his officers have spent the last few days hugging each other and crying.
“We are a family,” he said. “Like all families are, we may be dysfunctional at times and we may disagree. But we’re still family and we still care about each other.”
Couch said plans are being finalized for a memorial service for Dixon. Those plans, which would include a route for people to pay their respects to the officer, will be announced later today.