TRENTON, Fla. – Two Gilchrist County deputies shot and killed Thursday afternoon while getting food at a Trenton restaurant will be remembered as heroes, said the sheriff, who knew each of them personally.
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz identified the slain deputies during a news conference as Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 29, and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25.
As Schultz stood with neighboring sheriffs behind him, he became emotional talking about his two deputies.
"I can sit here in front of all of you and tell you that I loved them. And they were loved," he said. "I met with their families today. I told them that they could be proud of those men, and I’m proud to have been their sheriff."
Ramirez leaves behind a wife and two young children. He had seven years of law enforcement experience, serving at the Williston Police Department and the Levy County Sheriff's Office before joining the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office in 2016.
“Not only were they quintessential deputy sheriffs, they were quintessential children, boyfriends, husbands, brothers, law enforcement brothers that anyone could ever have," the sheriff said.
Schultz choked up as he talked about Ramirez, who had been promoted to the rank of sergeant less than a year ago.
"His smile, if you've ever seen Sgt. Ramirez smile -- infectious," Schultz said.
Lindsey, who the sheriff said worked on Ramirez's shift, served more than three years with the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, first joining the agency in 2013.
"He shined. All of my deputies and personnel shine, but that's what he loved, he loved doing drug interdiction, he loved serving people," the sheriff said.
The deputies had sat down to eat while on duty at the Ace China restaurant when a shooter walked up to the building and fired at them through a window "without warning," the Sheriff's Office said.
Fellow deputies responding to the scene found the shooter, who the Sheriff's Office identified as 59-year-old John Hubert Highnote, dead outside the business.
Schultz said he rushed to the scene as soon as he heard about the shooting. He said it's important to remember that attacks like Thursday's can happen anywhere, even in small cities like Trenton.
"After 26 years of doing this, there is nothing that can prepare you for senseless deaths," Schultz said.
The sheriff said both Ramirez and Lindsey were truly "the best of the best."
"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," he said.