Less than two weeks ago, Fred and Jada Dixon were awakened by a 4 a.m. phone call from their son, Blane. The Hall County deputy had just witnessed a young father shoot and kill his 2-year-old son, then himself.
“It shook him up,” said his mother. “It bothered him that he couldn’t save that baby.”
Around midnight Sunday, the Dixons received another after-hours call, this time from one of Blane’s colleagues. They were told their son had been shot and was undergoing surgery at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
An hour later, family members received the news that Nicolas Blane Dixon did not survive the shot to his gut. It hit him just below his ballistic vest, said Hall Sheriff Gerald Couch.
Dixon, 28, was among several deputies in pursuit of a stolen vehicle, believed to be the work of a teenage robbing crew suspected of other auto thefts. A chase ensued, ending in a wreck not far from the square in Gainesville.
“He was out there in the darkness while most of us slept comfortably,” Couch said of Dixon, the second law enforcement officer shot and killed in the line of duty in Georgia this year. He leaves behind a wife, Stephanie, and two young sons: Caden, 9, and 3-month-old Colton Justice.
Four suspects fled on foot into a residential area off Jesse Jewell Parkway, with the deputies in pursuit.
“The offenders started firing at the deputies,” Couch said. “The deputies fired back.”
One of the suspects, Hector Garcia-Solis, took cover behind a house. He re-emerged from the other end of the residence, and more shots were exchanged. Garcia-Solis, 17, was hit multiple times but is expected to survive. He faces felony murder charges.
By early Monday afternoon, the remaining suspects — Brayan Omar Cruz, London Clements and Eric Edgardo Velazquez, each 17 years old, each charged with felony murder — were in custody, authorities said.
“It was a cheap shot,” said Chris Cannon, Dixon’s cousin. “All for a freakin’ car.”
Family members surrounded Fred and Jada Dixon at the Gainesville home where they raised three sons. Blane was the middle child and never lacked for motivation, they said.
He got his first job before he could legally drive, working for a local veterinarian. The North Hall High School graduate eventually landed at a local manufacturing company, but he was not cut out for life behind a desk, his father said.
“About three years ago he came to me and said he wanted to follow his dream and become a police officer,” Fred Dixon recalled. “I always wanted my sons to do what makes them happy, so we were real supportive.”
The Dixons knew the inherent dangers of the job but weren’t too concerned.
"I knew he wanted to be a police officer like his uncle," said Jada Dixon, whose brother is now retired from law enforcement. "I was a little nervous about it, but this is small-town Gainesville. This kind of thing isn't supposed to happen here."
Blane Dixon took to the job immediately, spending his first year as a jailer, a requirement for Hall County deputies before entering the academy.
“He counted down the time,” Fred Dixon said. “‘One month closer,’ he’d say.”
The job didn’t disappoint him. Cops have plenty to complain about — modest pay, long hours, night shifts. But Blane Dixon was unfazed.
“You know when you’re passionate about something and you work it into every conversation?” Cannon said. “That was Blane. You could be talking about coconuts and he’d turn it into something about his job. He loved what he did.”
Credit: WSB-TV John Spink/AJC WSB-TV WSB-TV
Credit: WSB-TV John Spink/AJC WSB-TV WSB-TV
But reality sometimes intruded. There were concerns about money after his wife learned she was pregnant with a second child. Stephanie Dixon was still in a daze Monday as she talked about her husband of five years.
She grew up next door but they didn’t begin dating until they were out of high school, she said.
“He was the best dad there was,” she said.
Twelve hours after his death, family members, still numb to the tragedy, focused on the good times.
They wouldn’t have to think back very far. Last month, three generations of Dixons made their annual foray to Myrtle Beach, S.C. The highlight of the trip, at least for Fred Dixon and his three sons, was their day on the links.
No one relished the competitiveness more than Blane, said his father. Blane and his older brother had won the previous two years and appeared well on their way to a third consecutive win over their father, who teamed with his youngest son.
“We tied them on 16 (the 16th hole),” Fred Dixon recalled. “Took the lead on the 17th.”
And they held on, by one stroke, to win “the belt,” aka bragging rights for the next 365 days.
“Blane was a little upset,” said Fred Dixon, mustering a smile. “‘Just wait till next year,’ he said.”
Funeral services for Nicolas Blane Dixon will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Free Chapel Worship Center in Gainesville.
The slain Hall County sheriff's deputy is the fourth officer killed in the line of duty in Georgia this year, records show.
» RELATED: Condolences from Georgia governor, agencies after Hall deputy killed
Glascock County sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Ryer Jr., 19, of Gibson, was killed on Jan. 29 in a two-vehicle crash while en route to pick up an inmate, the Georgia State Patrol said. He had graduated from the police training program at Augusta Technical College only about six months before his death, according to Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council records.
» RELATED: 19-year-old Georgia deputy killed in two-car wreck while on duty
Forsyth County Deputy Sheriff Spencer Englett, 29, died April 4 after suffering a “traumatic medical event” during a training exercise, authorities said. It was his first day of training at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Pickens County, Sheriff Ron Freeman said at the time. The specifics of the medical event that led to his death remain unclear.
» ALSO: 29-year-old Forsyth County deputy dies from 'medical event' during training
And Savannah police Sgt. Kelvin Ansari, 50, was shot and killed on May 11 when he and another officer were ambushed by a robbery suspect. He was an Army veteran and a father of four.
» ALSO: Slain Savannah police officer was Army vet, father of 4
By this point in 2018, two Georgia officers had died in the line of the duty. The final tally by the end of last year was six.
» MORE: Henry officer was Georgia's 6th killed in line of duty in 2018
Anyone with information on Sunday night’s incident is asked to call the Hall County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 770-533-7693.