Neighbors of James M. Dixon III, 31, called the Sheriff’s Office about 3:50 a.m. Sunday to say someone had fired a shot through their house, Sheriff Bennie DeLoach said in a news statement.
Deputies went to Dixon’s house but decided for safety reasons to wait until daylight before confronting whoever fired the shot, DeLoach said.
As they waited, Dixon left the house and drove to his parents’ house about a half mile away on Holland Road Extension, Chief Deputy Lee J. Sweat Jr. said.
Deputies were not in position to stop Dixon but tried to stop him as he came back home, Sweat said.
“When he returned, he ran through a (partial) roadblock and we pursued him,’’ but Dixon made it back into his house, Sweat said.
The Georgia State Patrol SWAT team came to the scene and took over, and Dixon came outside the house just before 9 a.m. armed with a shotgun, DeLoach said.
When Dixon refused orders to put down the weapon, the SWAT team fired on him hitting him twice, Sweat said.
Dixon was taken to Appling HealthCare where he was pronounced dead on arrival, DeLoach said.
Dixon had served several tours in Iraq and had friends among the Appling County deputies, Sweat said.
“It’s a regrettable situation,’’ Sweat said.
Dixon’s older sister, Serran Aaron, said her brother suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was 100 percent disabled.
“He had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anybody,’’ she said.
After high school, her brother had enrolled at Georgia Southern University, earned a business administration degree, Aaron said.
“He graduated summa cum laude. He came home and told us he was signing up with the Marines. I was devastated, but he had talked about it since he was a child. He felt it was his duty to serve his country,’’ she said.
That duty took a toll changing him dramatically after three tours in Iraq and being wounded, she said.
Someone in the neighborhood had fired hundreds of shots Saturday “and I believe that unnerved him,’’ Aaron said.
Aaron said she got a call from her mother at 5:30 a.m. Sunday asking her to come quickly and she drove there to find her brother was having a flashback as he had once before since his discharge.
“He would really think he was in Iraq. He would say, ‘They’re coming. Don’t you hear them outside? Get down,’ ’’ Aaron said.
She also said that being confronted by the huge number of officers made her brother more apprehensive if anything.
While the officers were outside his house, Aaron said she was in near constant cellphone contact with her brother, but that the 38 calls she made in a two-hour period often got dropped because they live in a rural area.
He told her once that he was putting his medals on, she said.
She had tried to talk him into coming outside without his shotgun, the only weapon he owned, but he responded as if he were in combat saying, “I can’t go out there unarmed,’’ she said.
An Appling County deputy was taking her to the scene, but she wasn’t allowed to get close enough to talk to him, Aaron said.
She saw her brother outside the house with his gun down and was yelling hoping he could hear her, Aaron said.
Then an officer ordered her onto the ground, and then she heard the shots, Aaron said.
Aaron said she is talking to anyone who will listen because it is clear that law enforcement is trained to deal with criminals, not people like her brother.
Asked what kinds of medals her brother had, Aaron said she only recognized his Purple Heart among the many blooded ribbons and medals she was given Monday.
Meanwhile, the Marines are mourning with the Dixon family and supporting them, she said.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Memorial Freewill Baptist Church in Surrency, she said.
The GBI’s Douglas office, which is investigating the shooting, would not comment.
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