NEWBERRY, Fla. – Trenton residents lined Wade Street on Friday night to pay their respects to two Gilchrist County sheriff's deputies who were shot to death inside a restaurant.
Just after sundown, more than 100 people looked on as the bodies of Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 29, and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25, returned from the medical examiner's office in Alachua County and were taken to a Trenton funeral home.
Those lining the streets shed tears and saluted during the procession of law enforcement officers and first responders who were escorting the hearse carrying the bodies of the two fallen deputies.
"This community always gets together and supports everyone during sickness, during death," Trenton resident Karen Perry said.
Before the procession began about 9 p.m., many Trenton residents shared with News4Jax why it was important for them to show up.
"Trenton is a family. Everyone is a family here. We support each other," Trenton resident Jackson Feather said. "If something happens to one family, it happens to all of us. So we endure it together."
Authorities said the two deputies were sitting inside the Ace China restaurant Thursday afternoon when John Hubert Highnote, 59, casually walked in, went up to the deputies and fatally shot them before going to his car and killing himself.
"I was literally across the street when it happened, getting gas with my little niece and nephew," Trenton resident Lena Akes said tearfully. "It's too much and it's ugly and it's really sad."
As Akes joined the crowd of people lining the street to see the procession, she acknowledged the support from neighboring communities.
"It hits hard. So the support everyone is showing, we appreciate greatly," Akes said. "We're Gilchrest strong and we're a family. We have a lot of people who are praying for peace and comfort and strength. We draw off that. We don't let this scare us or push us down."
One Trenton resident told News4Jax that she knew Lindsey very well.
"He was a sweetheart. I loved him to death," said the woman, who did not want to be identified. "I just saw him a couple of days ago and was teasing him, telling him to be very careful out there.”
Countless people could be seen Friday bringing flowers, small flags and balloons to a growing memorial outside the Chinese restaurant.
The Feather family in Trenton ordered a sign from Sign-O-Rama, a company in Gainesville, and was told it would take five to seven business days for the sign to be completed. But when the business owner learned that the sign was for the two fallen deputies, he put a rush on the order and had it ready for pickup by Friday afternoon, free of charge.
A candlelight vigil remembering the slain deputies was also held Friday evening in Newberry, about 13 miles east of Trenton.
Another vigil is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at the Gilchrist County Courthouse.
According to the Gilchrist County School District, funeral services for the fallen deputies will take place Tuesday at Bell High School.
"Out of respect for the sacrifice they made to protect our community and love for our sheriff’s department, we will be closing all schools for students on Tuesday, April 24th in their honor," the school district posted on its Facebook page.