After Devin “Devon” O’Brian Dixon was shot trying to rob a drug dealer in 2005, Nathaniel Quick came to his aid, driving his friend to the hospital in critical condition.
“He took him to the emergency room,” recalled Celestine Howard, Quick’s grandmother. “That was years ago. He hadn’t seen Devon for years.”
Over the weekend, according to county police, Dixon fired 21 bullets at a west Columbia house where a crowded Halloween party was in progress, striking and killing Aaron Brice, 19, of Silver Spring.
One of the bullets also hit Quick — paralyzing the young man who helped save Dixon four years earlier.
It wasn’t the first time police have accused Dixon, 22, of carrying a gun in quiet Howard County. It also wasn’t the first time Dixon has been charged with committing a crime against one of his friends.
But the Nov. 1 shooting in the 11500 block of Manorstone Lane was the most violent and serious of a series of charges against Dixon that include four separate convictions and three separate felony indictments.
Most recently, in late 2007, Dixon was sent away to prison on a three-year sentence for illegal gun possession. Had he not been released early for good behavior, he still would have been in prison at the time of the shooting.
“Can they get guns so fast?” Howard asked. “It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for the young man who died.
“I feel so sorry for them,” Howard added of Brice’s family. “They had to bury their child.”
Victim ‘a quiet child’
A Howard High graduate who is majoring in finance and business at Bowie State, Quick, 22, set off for the party on Halloween night with a friend, Howard said.
“He is a quiet child,” said his grandmother, who raised him. “He never causes trouble. I knew he was going to the party and I told him, ‘Be safe, Nathaniel.’ ”
But things turned ugly at the party. Police said an argument broke out, and, the next thing Quick knew, he heard gunfire and felt a pain in the back.
“All he knows is he got hit in the back,” Howard said. “He didn’t see Devon there. I don’t why Devon was there or what his problem was. To be shooting people outside? That’s a mystery to me.”
Howard said police told her that the bullet that struck her grandson ricocheted off a window and was not intended for Quick.
“He’s hanging in there,” she said of her grandson, whom she has visited every day at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. “He’s paralyzed from the waist down. He knows it, but it hasn’t really hit him.
“He used to walk every day. He loves to walk. He just bought two new pairs of sneakers. Now he says, ‘Grandma, I don’t have any legs. Grandma, my legs.’ ”
Howard said Dixon came to visit her shortly after the shooting. Upon learning that Quick was paralyzed, he looked distraught, she said.
“He asked, ‘How was Nathaniel,’ and I said, ‘Well, he’s paralyzed from the waist down.’ He just walked out, like he was so in pain or hurt,” Howard said.
Long criminal record
Dixon’s adult criminal record began only days after he became an adult. Less than one month after his 18th birthday, a Howard County police SWAT team was raiding his former residence in Columbia — the first of two times the tactical unit would be called to deal with Dixon.
In February of 2005, Howard County police suspected Dixon of being “in possession of a handgun,” and obtained a search warrant for his home in the 8800 block of Hayshed Lane, according to an investigation done by officers James Iacarino and Brian Tanhauser.
On Feb. 11, 2005, at 5:30 a.m., tactical officers rammed in the front door of the home, damaging the lock, and searched Dixon’s bedroom.
There, officers found 63 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, a jar with marijuana residue and bags used for packaging drugs, police said. Dixon was charged with marijuana possession and struck a plea deal for probation later that year.
A few months later, Dixon was shot while attempting to rob a drug dealer working out of a barbershop.
On July 17, 2005, according to police, Dixon and another man entered the Barber King salon in the Long Reach Village Center at 1 a.m. and attempted the robbery. Gunfire broke out and an unarmed Dixon was struck by a bullet. He was rushed to Howard County General Hospital by Quick, whom police described as a “friend.”
Dixon was sentenced to 110 days, after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.
Drug charges initially filed against Quick were dismissed because of insufficient evidence, said Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Out of jail, back in trouble
After serving several months in jail, Dixon was released and, court records show, went back to committing crimes.
On Aug. 20, 2006, he beat and robbed a man outside his Hayshed Lane house, causing the SWAT team to engage him in a “standoff,” according to police.
The victim in the case told police he was robbed by two suspects who struck him from behind and stole his cell phone. When the two ran into Dixon’s home, police used a tactical unit to “peacefully” talk them into surrendering, according to court records.
After a search of the house, police said they found empty gel capsules and other evidence of drug distribution.
“Dixon admitted to his involvement in the robbery,” wrote Cpl. Justin Baker in charging documents. “Dixon also admitted the pills and powder … was ecstasy. Dixon advised he had not sold (drugs) for a long period of time.”
He pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years in prison Aug. 28, 2007.
Before that sentencing, Dixon, who was out on bail, was charged with yet another crime.
On April 12, 2007, he was accused of burglarizing his friend’s house in the 8500 block of Winter Pasture Way, in Columbia. Dixon was friends with the family’s son, but that didn’t stop him from sneaking inside the house to steal the family’s PlayStation 3 video game system, according to charging documents.
On Dec. 12, 2007, Dixon was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft in the case.
Johns Hopkins criminologist Doug Ward said cases such as Dixon’s — which show escalating criminal behavior with no rehabilitation — present a problem for law enforcement all over the country.
“This is a big problem everywhere,” he said. “We call it a criminal justice system, but it’s not much of a system. There are competing interests here. You have police officers who are trying to build good cases …. and you have a so-called correctional system, where part of the goal is to keep them in prison and part is to get them out as quickly as possible to free up beds.”
Ward said oftentimes parole and probation agents — who are supposed to keep a close eye on newly released inmates — are too overwhelmed by large workloads to do an effective job of monitoring ex-cons.
“Parole and probation agents are supposed to keep watch over them,” he said. “In a lot of cases, it doesn’t happen, and this is one of them.”
Calls to Dixon’s residence, and the office of his former attorney, Ivan Bates, went unreturned.
Dixon, who now lives at the 8000 block of Paul Martin Drive, in Elkridge, is being held without bond at the Howard County Detention Center.
Dean Schroyer, 21, who lives with Dixon, is charged as an accessory to the murder after the fact and with a drug violation, according to police. Schroyer has been released on $50,000 bond. He has no previous criminal record.
Dixon has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Dec. 1 in Howard County District Court.