Fallen Gilchrist County deputies to be laid to rest

Viewing, funeral planned Tuesday for Sgt. Noel Ramirez, Deputy Taylor Lindsey

TRENTON, Fla. – Two Gilchrist County sheriff's deputies shot to death last week inside a Trenton restaurant will be laid to rest on Tuesday.

A public viewing and funeral service are planned for Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 29, and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25. 

Alachua County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Brett Rhodenizer announced that the viewing will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Bell Middle/High School in Trenton. It will be immediately followed by the non-denominational service at 11 a.m.

Graveside honors will follow at 2:30 p.m. at Bronson Cemetery.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Tuesday at the Gilchrist County Courthouse, at the City Hall in Trenton and at the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office. 

On Monday, sheriff's deputies could be seen guarding the doors of the Watson Funeral Home, where the bodies of both men were being held until Tuesday's services. 

The funeral home in Trenton is located less than a mile from where the deputies were killed inside a Chinese restaurant. 

Authorities said John Hubert Highnote, 59, fatally shot Ramirez and Lindsey at the Ace China restaurant Thursday afternoon, and then went to his car and killed himself.

A memorial in front of the restaurant continued to grow Monday as law enforcement officers from around the state and across the country arrived ahead of Tuesday's services.

IMAGES: Memorial for fallen Gilchrist deputies continues to grow

Deputy Chris Heimink, with the Ulster County Sheriff's Office in upstate New York, showed up at the memorial to pay his respects to the fallen deputies. 

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Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey were eating lunch at 3 p.m. Thursday when a gunman walked in Ace China Restaurant and opened fire.

"We're all one big family -- the Blue Line. When one person gets hurt, we all hurt," said Heimink, who is a member of one of the honor guards that will be attending Tuesday's services. “It fills my heart with sorrow that we would lose one of our brothers in such a senseless act. The lack of respect for life breaks my heart and I know that millions of cops around the world are hurting right now.”

Heimink said it's tough for law enforcement officers to deal with a fallen brother who wears the badge, but they do their best to maintain their composure.

"We have to stay strong for the family to remind them that, even though the senseless act happened, we're still here for you and we need to stay strong and back each other up," he said. 

Beth Hellman brought her three nieces to the memorial to pray for the two fallen deputies. 

"I want them to understand that this is the place where the men lost their lives. They know about Jesus and they know the men are going to heaven," she said. "I've come here and I've eaten I don't know how many times, and you never think your life could be taken in that split second."

Across the street from the restaurant, News4Jax met Marina Thomas, the daughter of the chaplain for the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office. 

The Trenton resident said her father is also taking the deaths of the two deputies very hard. 

“It doesn't hit him until he gets home. He’s able to keep it together, but when he gets home to my mom, it sinks in and it’s hard," Thomas said. "But he’s been the backbone and the rock for all these people, so I’m very proud of him.”

Thomas reflected on Friday night when she stood with community members and watched as the bodies of both deputies were taken to the funeral home. 

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"It was heartbreaking, but it was also a feeling of pride. These men who died were heroes," she said. "Every morning they get up and put on that badge makes them a hero."

She urged all Gilchrist County residents to attend the services for the two deputies.

"These are two local heroes from our hometown," Thomas said. "I feel like it's everybody's duty to come out to support them and their families."

News4Jax also spoke with family members of Ramirez shortly after they arrived from El Paso, Texas.

They were visibly upset but wanted the world to know that Ramirez was a great father to his two children, a 4-year-old and a baby. They also said he was an all-around good person. 

Ramirez leaves behind a wife, along with his 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. 

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.

News4Jax will be streaming the funeral service online.

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