Friday August 19th, 2022 5:12AM

Dixon trial: Jury announces guilty verdicts for three men charged with deputy’s murder

By AccessWDUN Staff

The jury has announced guilty verdicts on all counts for Hector Garcia-Solis, Eric Velazquez and London Clements, including malice murder charges for Garcia-Solis and Velazquez, for the 2019 shooting death of Hall County Sheriff's Deputy Blane Dixon.

Garcia-Solis, his cousin Velazquez and Clements were also found guilty in a series of burglaries and car thefts in the days leading up to the car chase and a shootout with police in a Gainesville neighborhood on July 7, 2019.

After the jury presented their verdict at noon Thursday, Judge Jason Deal announced sentencing for the three men will be held on Thursday, July 8

A fourth suspect Brayan Cruz had his case severed; he was among the witnesses testifying for the state last week. Court testimony revealed all of the suspects were 17 at the time of the crimes. 

The jury first received the case just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Prior to that, attorneys for both the state and the defense spent Wednesday morning and part of the afternoon making closing arguments in the case. 

Since the state bears the burden of proof in the case, Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance presented her closing arguments first and then was able to respond to closing arguments presented by the three defense attorneys.

In initial comments that lasted more than an hour, Vance told the members of the jury they have a difficult job ahead of them, but she directed them to consider the facts.

"They're young and that is heartbreaking," Vance said. "That's heartbreaking, but we're not asking you to judge their hearts...but judge the evidence and look at the elements of the crimes that they're charged with because the state has proven this case to you beyond a reasonable doubt."

Garcia-Solis is the accused gunman. In fact, he admitted on the witness stand he was the one who fired the shot that killed Deputy Dixon. But, one of his attorneys Robert O'Neill said in his closing arguments the defendant never set out to hurt anyone. Moreover, he said there was no proof that his client or the others were planning a robbery the night of the shooting. 

"I think the state has wholly failed to prove their case," O'Neill told the jury. "I believe the way they're going to get you to find a guilty verdict of malice murder is by marginalizing Hector and these boys and having you not take any look whatsoever at the acts of law enforcement in this tragedy."

O'Neill then told the jury local law enforcement should never have allowed Dixon, who had been an HCSO employee for three years, to engage in a car chase with suspects. 

"They put him in a position where his life was threatened in a chase. They don't want you to know about that. They don't want you back there worrying your little heads about that," O'Neill said. "Believe me, they had a part in the tragedy."

Jason Wilson, the defense attorney for Eric Velazquez, said the state never offered concrete proof that his client or the others were planning a burglary the night Dixon was killed.

"Assuming that somebody is doing something, there's only so far that can go. That can't work in a courtroom," Wilson said. "If they'd actually committed a burglary, if they'd been in the front of a place trying to break a window, at that point, you would have real, definite proof that this is what's happening...and when you put this murder that Hector committed, when you are trying to use this driving around a neighborhood when you're trying to use that to connect Eric to the awful crime that Hector committed, and thereby find Eric guilty of murder and send him off to prison for the rest of his life, I think you need a little more than just an assumption."

Dan Sammons, the attorney for defendant London Clements, denied his client was the instigator in the crimes as alleged by the state. Prosecutors contended Clements had wanted to participate in a gun theft just as Velazquez and Garcia-Solis had done. Sammons said that was a stretch.

"If London Clements was being embraced by the crew of two and he had [said] 'I want a weapon, I want a gun' - if he had expressed that to the crew of two after they had stolen 40, don't you think they would have given him one or sold him one on credit?" Sammons asked the jury. 

When Vance finished her rebuttal, Judge Jason Deal spent about an hour giving the jury instructions for deliberation and then turned the case over to them just before 3:30 p.m. Deliberations resumed Thursday morning, and they announced their decision at noon.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: hall county sheriff's office, Hall County Superior Court, murder trial , Judge Jason Deal , Nicolas Blane Dixon
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