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Suspect in Gilchrist deputies' slayings has Tampa Bay ties

Gilchrist County sheriff's deputy Taylor Lindsey,  25, left, and Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 30, right, a seven-year veteran, were shot and killed at a restaurant in downtown Trenton, Fla., about 3 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement from the sheriff's office. [Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office]
Gilchrist County sheriff's deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25, left, and Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 30, right, a seven-year veteran, were shot and killed at a restaurant in downtown Trenton, Fla., about 3 p.m. Thursday, according to a statement from the sheriff's office. [Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office]
Published Apr. 20, 2018

The man identified as the suspect who fatally shot two Gilchrist County deputies in a restaurant Thursday afternoon before taking his own life has ties to the Tampa Bay area.

Deputies say John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell — who was found dead outside the Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton — lived in portions of the Tampa Bay area, most recently 25 years ago.

Sheriff Bobby Schultz wouldn't say how Highnote died, adding that state law enforcement officials were investigating. There's no apparent motive for the shooting.

Schultz identified the deputies as Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 30, a seven-year veteran, and deputy Taylor Lindsey, who was 25. Schultz said Ramirez had children and was married, and Lindsey was not married but had a girlfriend.

Investigators say they may never know why Highnote — a recluse from a rural farm community who rarely ventured into town — killed the deputies.

"It's inexplicable," State Attorney Bill Cervone said. "People will want to know why, and we may never have an answer for them."

The deputies were inside the restaurant when Highnote shot them through the restaurant's window, a Sheriff's Office statement said.

"Sgt. Ramirez and Deputy Lindsey were the best of the best," Schultz said. "They were men of loyalty, God-fearing … They gave their lives so that we can all be safe."

According to public records, Highnote lived in St. Petersburg for short times in 1987 and 1993, and for most of 1988; and also in Clearwater from 1998-2003.

Records show he was arrested by the Pinellas Park Police Department in 1978 on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon. That charge was eventually dismissed.

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Highnote lived alone in a small, brick house 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," the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of the crime. She characterized him as a recluse.

Schultz spoke mostly about the fallen deputies and the honor of serving in law enforcement. He said he wouldn't make his remarks political, except for saying, "What do you expect when you demonize law enforcement to the extent it has been demonized?"

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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.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he was "heartbroken" by the shootings.

PREVIOUS STORY: Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

"It is true evil for anyone to hurt a law enforcement officer, and in Florida, we have zero tolerance for violence, especially against the police," Scott said in a statement.

"My heart breaks with the tragic news of two Gilchrist County deputies that were senselessly killed today while in the line of duty," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote in a statement. "The daily risk that law enforcement officers take to protect our communities is overwhelming. My deepest condolences and prayers are with their families as they mourn the devastating loss of their loved ones. May their families, friends and fellow officers find peace and comfort during this very difficult time."

President Donald Trump tweeted about the shooting and called the deputies heroes.

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.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also tweeted his condolences:

Just landed and received the terrible news that 2 #Florida deputies fatally shot in Gilchrist County. Please pray for their families. Reminder of the #ThinBlueLine protecting us every single day. https://t.co/KuZFmNA55C #sayfie

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

Times staff writer Ron Brackett and information for Times wire services was used in this reoprt.

Contact Carl Lisciandrello at clisciandrello@tampabay.com. Follow @carlmarksTimes.

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