Authorities say motive in deputy killings may never be known
TRENTON, Fla. (AP) — Investigators in Florida say they may never know why a man - a recluse from a rural farm community who rarely ventured into town - killed two sheriff’s deputies while they sat in a Chinese restaurant.
John Hubert Highnote, 58, of Bell casually walked into the restaurant, went up to the Gilchrest County deputies and fired at them. He then went into his car and killed himself.
“It’s inexplicable,” State Attorney Bill Cervone said. “People will want to know why, and we may never have an answer for them.”
Highnote came from a small town just up the road from the Ace China restaurant in Trenton, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Gainesville. He lived alone in a small, brick house off a dirt road shaded under a canopy of trees.
A neighbor who has lived across the street for five years said that Highnote never once introduced himself, and he was rarely seen in town. The only time she ever saw him was when he would drive his truck into the garage.
“I’d see him pull in, shut the garage and go in. No lights on or nothing,” said the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she did not want to be involved in the investigation. She characterized him as a recluse.
Gilchrest County Sheriff Bobby Schultz blamed the deaths of Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 30, and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25, on hatred toward law enforcement.
“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,” Schultz said at a news conference.
“The only thing these men were guilty of is wanting to protect you and me. They just wanted to get something to eat, and they just wanted to do their job,” he said.
President Donald Trump called the slain deputies “HEROES” in a tweet sharing his condolences with their friends, families and colleagues.
Highnote bought his house in Bell in 2010, property records show. He’d had one traffic ticket in Gilchrist County over the past eight years, according to the county clerk of court.
Prior to moving to Bell, records show that Highnote lived in St. Petersburg where he had more run-ins with law enforcement over previous decades.
He was arrested for felony carrying a concealed firearm in 1978, a charge later dropped after he successfully completed a pre-trial intervention, Pinellas County court records show.
Hightnote was also arrested for misdemeanor criminal mischief in 1994, for which he also did a pre-trial diversion program and the charges were dropped. The records had no further information about the mischief for which he was arrested. He was also cited for consuming alcohol in public in 1977, and had 11 traffic tickets for speeding and other infractions over the years.
Schultz said state law enforcement officials are investigating, and an investigator from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was at Highnote’s house on Friday.
“Sgt. Ramirez and Deputy Lindsey were the best of the best,” Schultz said. “They were men of integrity, men of loyalty. They were God-fearing, and they loved what they did, and we are very proud of them.”
Schultz said he rushed to the scene, and then had the difficult task of calling the families of Ramirez, who is survived by his wife and two young children, and Lindsey, who joined the sheriff’s office in 2013.
Jamie Mauldin, a waitress at Akins Bar-B-Q about a mile from Highnote’s house in Bell said the town is devastated by the loss of the two deputies. She wore a freshly made T-shirt that said “Gilchrist Strong.” The proceeds of the shirts will go to the deputies’ families.
“Ramirez was the sweetest ever. He loved his family. Loved his job,” she said. “Always had a smile.”