The last of the four co-defendants in the slaying of Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon was sentenced Friday, Aug. 6, to 17 years in prison.
The prosecution dismissed malice and felony murder counts against Brayan Omar Cruz, 19, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault against a peace officer and conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary.
All four men were accused of getting together in a stolen car July 7, 2019, which was chased by Dixon. After a foot chase, Dixon was shot once below his vest by Garcia-Solis.
Garcia-Solis, Clements and Velazquez were all sentenced July 8 to life in prison, but only the last two were given the chance of parole.
Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson said there was no agreement in exchange for Cruz’s testimony at the time of the trial.
“Nothing today is going to help Blane Dixon’s family with the grief that they feel as a result of Mr. Cruz’s actions,” Assistant District Attorney Harold Buckler said.
Buckler discussed during the hearing how Cruz and Clements were at one point housed in the same facility.
“When London Clements saw Mr. Cruz, London Clements started yelling and pounding and screaming to the other inmates that (Cruz) was a snitch,” Buckler said.
Cruz was then put into protective custody, the assistant district attorney said.
Cruz asked Buckler if people were going to know if he testified, and Buckler told him that the news would get around through the community and media reports of the trial.
Cruz’s brother testified that Brayan was not a bad person but someone who started running with the wrong crowd. Cruz came to his attorney Tracy Drake as a “scared little boy,” she said.
“When I first met him, I could not believe the charges,” she said.
Drake advocated for sentencing under the First Offender Act, which would discharge the case from Cruz’s records without a court adjudication of guilt if he fulfilled the terms of his sentence.
She said Cruz has expressed interest in finishing his education, getting drug treatment and possibly working with other young men to avoid making disastrous life choices.
Blane’s father Fred Dixon and younger brother Jeremy Dixon testified and were granted permission by Deal to address Cruz directly.
“You’re not just affecting my family,” Fred Dixon said. “Turn around and look at your family. We’ve hurt. We’ve hurt hard.”
Speaking to Cruz, Fred Dixon told him he was a follower and not a leader like Blane Dixon and his two other sons.
“You need to walk your own path, because I guarantee you: Those three other guys, they’re not going to lose a minute’s sleep over what’s happening to you right now,” Fred Dixon said.
Jeremy, who said he was the closest in age in the Dixon family to Cruz, told the defendant he did the right thing albeit two years too late.
Jeremy always tried to make Blane proud, but now he can’t tell him about his accomplishments or how Blane’s nephew is playing baseball, his favorite sport.
Deal said he was not inclined to sentence under the First Offender Act because he believed it needed to remain on Cruz’s records.
“I keep in mind that after you were arrested, when you were in the jail, you still tried to sell some of those guns, set up a deal to sell some of those guns, and by that time you should have known that you had to change your ways,” Deal said. In September 2020, a Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputy assigned to the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad testified at a hearing about two phone calls with Cruz.
According to the terms of probation, Cruz will be subject to random drug and alcohol screens and cannot possess any weapons.
“The court’s sentence was appropriate in the light of this defendant’s testimony at trial while also holding him significantly accountable,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said in a statement following sentencing.
This story originally published in our sister paper Gainesville Times.