A gunman walked up to the window of a Chinese food restaurant in Florida on Thursday and shot two sheriff’s deputies who were inside eating.
Sergeant Noel Ramirez, 29, and Deputy Sheriff Taylor Lindsey, 25, were shot to death inside the Ace China restaurant around 3:00 p.m. in Trenton — a small Florida city 50 miles west of Gainesville, according to the Gilchrist County sheriff’s office.
“A suspect walked up to the business and shot both deputies through the window,” the sheriff’s office said.
“Both our heroes had simply sat down to eat while on duty,” police said later. “There was no crime in progress, no disturbance. The suspect appears to have walked to the front of the business and shot both men without warning.”
Police identified the killer as John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell, Florida, another small town 10 miles north of Trenton. He was found nearby, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Highnote was arrested in 1978 for carrying a concealed weapon, according to the Tampa Bay Times, but the charge was dismissed.
As of Friday morning, police had not yet determined a motive for the shooting. “At this point, it remains an active criminal investigation with no apparent motive or indications as to why this tragedy happened,” the Gilchrist County sheriff’s office said in an official statement.
“It appears he just walked up and shot them, then went to his car and shot himself. It’s in explicable. People will want to know why and we may never have an answer for them,” Florida State Attorney Bill Cervone told the Gainesville Sun.
But the Gilchrist County Sheriff, Bobby Schultz, blamed it on widespread criticism of law enforcement in a press conference held after the shooting.
“What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement, to the extent that its been demonized, every type of hate, every type of put down that you can think of,” Sheriff Schultz said.
Including Deputies Ramirez and Lindsey, 19 law enforcement officers have been shot to death in the line of duty this year, according to CNN, or roughly one per week.
Another 12 law enforcement officers died in traffic fatalities, and nine died of various causes, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Sheriff Shultz briefly eulogized Deputies Ramirez and Lindsey during Thursday’s press conference.
They were the “best of the best,” Shultz said. “They’re men of integrity, they’re men of loyalty. They’re God-fearing, and they loved what they did. And we’re very proud of them,”
“The only thing these men were guilty of,” Shultz added, “is wanting to protect you and me, they just wanted to go get something to eat, and they just wanted to do their job.”
“I know both of them personally,” he added. “I loved them,” he said, “And they were loved."
[Photos: Gilchrist County Sheriff's Department]