TRENTON, Fla. — Two deputies were killed Thursday when a man walked up to them in a Florida restaurant while they were eating and opened fire, a Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.
Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey were eating at the Ace China restaurant in Trenton, a small town about 30 miles west of Gainesville.
The sheriff’s office initially said the gunman shot the deputies through a window from outside the restaurant, but spokesman Scott Tummond clarified that account Friday, saying the gunman was actually inside when he opened fire.
“Both our heroes had simply sat down to eat while on duty,” Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz said Thursday night. “There was no crime in progress, no disturbance.”
The deputies were in uniform and armed when they were shot, Tummond said, but they did not return fire.
The shooter, who was identified as John Hubert Highnote, 59, “shot both men without warning.” He was found dead outside the business, the sheriff’s office said.
“Two holes in the window are visible tonight,” Schultz said.
The fallen officers
Schultz described the two deputies as men of integrity and loyalty.
“They were the best of the best,” he said, adding later that “I can tell you that I loved them.”
Ramirez, 30, had been a law enforcement officer for about seven years. He served at two law enforcement agencies before joining the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office in 2016.
He is survived by his wife and two young children, officials said.
Lindsey was 25 and had been with the Gilchrist Sheriff’s Office for more than three years.
Schultz told reporters Thursday he wanted to focus on telling the stories of the deputies while investigators began their work looking into the shooting.
He said Ramirez had an infectious smile and Lindsey loved to stop the flow of illegal drugs.
“At this point, it remains an active criminal investigation with no apparent motive or indications as to why this tragedy occurred,” the department said on Facebook.
Schultz said there was much he wanted to say, and much he shouldn’t.
“But I will say this. We’re not going to make this … a political issue. Other than the fact, what do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement to the extent that it’s been demonized? Every type of hate, every type of putdown that you can think of.
“The only thing these men were guilty of was wanting to protect you and me.”
According to the department’s website, there are 14 full-time deputies in the patrol division.
“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 tweeted.
Gov. Rick Scott asked Floridians to honor the fallen deputies and other law enforcement officers.
“May God bless those who work to keep our communities safe,” he tweeted.