“The shooter, found deceased from a gunshot wound by responders outside the business nearby, has been identified as John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell,” the Sheriff’s Department reported. The department did not release further details of the gunman. Online records show him with a series of addresses throughout Florida over the years, including Clearwater, Daytona Beach, and St. Petersburg.
The slain deputies were previously identified by the emotional Sheriff as Sergeant Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey. Sheriff Bobby Schultz remembered the two men as “the best of the best” and called them men of integrity and loyalty. Officials have not yet released the motive for the ambush, but the deputies were simply sitting inside the Chinese restaurant and eating a meal when the bullets came through the window.
The suspect was dead at the scene.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Shooter Murdered the Deputies ‘Without Warning’ By Firing Through the Restaurant Window
The Sheriff’s department has described a stone-cold ambush in which the two law enforcement officers were simply eating a meal in the middle of the afternoon at a local Chinese restaurant. The suspect, they say, shot them through a window. “Both our heroes had simply sat down to eat while on duty. There was no crime in progress, no disturbance. The suspect appears to have walked to the front of the business and shot both men without warning. Two holes in the window are visible tonight,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a release.
Ramirez was 30 and Lindsey was 25, Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz said at a press conference. Many details about the shooting have not been released because of the ongoing investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The shooting unfolded at 3 p.m. in the afternoon of April 19, 2018. “At approximately 3:00pm this afternoon, two Gilchrist County Deputy Sheriffs were shot and killed in the Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton, after a suspect walked up to business and shot both deputies through the window,” the press release stated.
The department announced on Twitter, “GILCHRIST COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE has suffered a terrible tragedy. Please avoid the area of SR 26 from the red light to the area of subway. No suspects are at large. Further updates will be posted later.”
The Sheriff’s Department indicated that a motive was not yet known. “At this point, it remains an active criminal investigation with no apparent motive or indications as to why this tragedy occurred,” the press release wrote.
Sheriff Bobby Schultz was “on scene throughout the afternoon with his deputies and their families, notifying additional loved ones,” the department reported.
“Officials from the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the State Attorney’s Office have all responded to the area to assist,” the release continued.
2. Highnote, Called a ‘Coward’ by the Sheriff, Has Previous Run Ins With the Law & an Expired Weapons Permit
The sheriff labeled Highnote a “coward” during a news conference after the shooting.
John Highnote has a criminal history in Pinellas County, Florida, but it was an old one. In 1994, he was accused of misdemeanor criminal mischief, but the case was dismissed the following year. In 1978, he was accused of felony carrying a concealed weapon, but the charge was also dismissed.
He did have a slew of somewhat more recent traffic offenses in that county, but the most recent is 2001. He had only one offense listed in Gilchrist County court records, which is where his hometown of Bell is located. It was for improper turn in 2012.
Among the other minor Pinellas County offenses: Improper operation of a motorcycle, unlawful speed, running a stop sign and the like.
He was described in the court records as a white male who stood 5’8″ and weighed 126 pounds. Highnote also had a weapons permit that expired in 2010 in Volusia County, online records show. He also previously had hunting permits in Florida. He doesn’t come up as currently registered to vote in Florida.
Property records show him with a P.O. Box in Bell and property valued at just under $100,000.
In contrast, the two deputies were lauded by the sheriff for their character.
“They were God-fearing, and they loved what they did and were very proud of it,” the emotional sheriff said of Ramirez and Lindsey. “I loved them and they were loved, and I met with the families today and told them they can be proud of those men. They can be proud, and I’ve proud to have been their sheriff.”
“What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement to the extent it’s been demonized? Every type of hate, every type of put down you can think of, the only thing these men were guilty about was protecting you and me. They just wanted to get something to eat. And to do their jobs,” he added. He said the slayings hit him “like a ton of bricks.”
A friend of Lindey’s echoed the sheriff’s sentiment. “This is too close to home, a coward walked in and murdered a true friend of mine while he was eating. Taylor Lindsey I love you brother,” he wrote.
3. Ramirez & Lindsey Were Remembered as Men of Integrity Who Died Protecting the Community
Both men’s Facebook pages show vibrant lives surrounded by loved ones. The Facebook page of Sergeant Ramirez shows an officer devoted to family. His most recent public post is a video of a small child on stage that he captioned “speech at Levy County Fair Pageant. #ILuvChicken.” Another photo showed him kissing a small child who was wearing a costume.
According to the sheriff, Ramirez was married with kids and Lindsey left behind a girlfriend. In 2015, Noel wrote: “I’m a daddy again. My daughter …She was born today 5/7/15 at 3:02pm. Weights 6 lbs and 11 ounces and is 20″ tall. Thanks you God for this miracle. In love with my little princess.” Ramirez previously worked at another sheriff’s office and police department. He was promoted to sergeant about a year ago and had worked with the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department for two years, the sheriff said.
“If you’ve ever seen Sgt. Ramirez smile – infectious,” the sheriff said.
In 2013, he posted about the birth of a namesake son. “My lil miracle. Baby Lito!! Noel Ramirez the third was born on 10/29/13 @ 0718 hrs. Baby Lito weight was 6.5 lbs and height 19 1/2 inches,” he wrote. “I want to thanks God because with out him this miracle wouldn’t happen. I want to thank Gigi for giving me the best gift in the world (love u boo). I want to thanks everyone (family, friend, etc) for all ur prayers n good wishes. This is the best feeling ever.”
Friends posted tributes to Taylor Lindsey and Noel Ramirez on Facebook. “It just doesn’t seem real, I was just talking to you today at the store & you were happy to be moving back to trenton I didn’t once think that would be our last conversation, there really are no words. Rest easy Taylor & Noel,” wrote one on Lindsey’s page.
Another friend wrote on Lindsey’s page, ” I will miss my buddy Taylor Lindsey!!! He was a good guy! I feel like he is gonna text me and tell me he is ok. This doesn’t seem real…. at all!!!” Another friend of Lindsey’s wrote, “Praying for you & your family tonight Taylor Lindsey 💙🚔 You threw THE best tacky sweater Christmas party every Christmas break. We’re one of the kindest people I knew.”
Another friend called Lindsey “such a sweet soul” and wrote: “Just when I thought this day could get NO worse… I have absolutely no words. No one should have to die doing what they love. No one should have to worry about their safety going to work or coming home from work. Especially someone like this man! I’m so lucky to have grown up with such a sweet soul but gone way too soon. What is this country coming to? I am in shock…💔🖤💙 Taylor Lindsey is one of the sweetest souls, he did not deserve this. He is a hero and will not be forgotten ever.”
Lindsey had left the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department and then recently came back, the sheriff said. “He loved doing drug interdiction” and serving people, the sheriff added. According to his Facebook page, Lindsey “studied at Santa Fe College: Kirkpatrick Center Institute of Public Safety,” went to Gainesville High School, lived in Gainesville, Florida, and was single.
4. John Highnote Died at the Scene Outside the Restaurant
The shooter was dead at the scene, although details of how his death unfolded were not yet released. “As fellow deputies responded to the scene, they found the shooter deceased outside the business, and both Deputy Sheriffs where they died of their wounds,” continued the release. It’s not yet been released whether the wounds to the shooter were self-inflicted.
The governor and attorney general pledged any support necessary to help Gilchrist County as news of the attack unfolded. Trenton is located in north Florida, somewhat close to Gainesville.
News4Jax reported through sources, though, that the shooter killed himself in his car after murdering the two deputies.
5. President Donald Trump Called the Slain Men Heroes & There Were Other Ambush Attacks on Law Enforcement Officers in Recent Years
The president quickly weighed in with a tweet, calling the slain officers heroic. “My thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the families, friends and colleagues of the two @GCSOFlorida deputies (HEROES) who lost their lives in the line of duty today,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
The summer of 2016 saw other ambush style attacks against police officers from two different agencies unfolded.
Five police officers were slain by a sniper in July 2016. That attack came at the end of a protest against police shootings.
That same summer Gavin Long murdered three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “The military veteran who killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge last summer left behind a suicide note, a prayer from an Islamic holy book and an online trail of his rage against police,” reported KansasCity.com of that attack.
As noted, however, it’s not yet clear what inspired the attack in Trenton.