John Hubert Highnote, a reclusive former auto mechanic who has lived in Florida for decades, was identified as the gunman who ambushed two Gilchrist County Sheriff’s deputies in Trenton, Florida, shooting them to death as they sat inside a Chinese restaurant and ate a meal.
Highnote has an older history of contacts with the criminal justice system in Florida, including a 1993 situation in which he was accused of launching a campaign of frightening harassment against a woman who went out to dinner with him and then decided she only wanted to be friends. At the time, he was working as a car mechanic in St. Petersburg, court records obtained by Heavy say. Highnote was accused of tossing roof nails in the woman’s driveway and scrawling comments on her door. In 2001, he was fired from a job after an argument at work that culminated in Highnote tossing a cup of coffee on the floor and threatening to return.
He lived alone, rarely was seen outside, and, according to a neighbor, rarely seemed to turn on the lights.
“John Hubert Highnote was a 59 year old white male from Bell, Florida. He was overweight, balding, and had a white beard. He is described as a ‘recluse’ and a ‘loner’ by the few people who knew him. His neighbors did not see him, nor were they even able to describe him,” the Gilchrist County sheriff stated on April 27, 2018.
On April 19, 2018, he’s accused of turning his anger toward two well-regarded deputies who were simply trying to eat a meal, although the motive is not yet clear.
“The shooter, found deceased from a gunshot wound by responders outside the business nearby, has been identified as John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell,” the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department reported. Online records show him with a series of addresses throughout Florida over the years, including Clearwater, Daytona Beach, the Tampa Bay area, and St. Petersburg.
The sheriff implored: “Law enforcement as a whole is getting better at identifying those who are battling mental health issues. We ask only one, simple thing: PLEASE STOP SHOOTING. Give us, the Deputies, Police Officers and First Responders who arrive a chance to help you. Please don’t shoot us or anyone else. We want to help you. Let us help you. Please don’t shoot us.”
Authorities now say that they think Highnote went inside the restaurant and ambushed and shot the two deputies as they ate, a Gilchrist County Sheriff’s spokesman told Heavy. Previously, the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department had told the news media that Highnote fired through the restaurant’s window, striking the deputies, but further investigation clarified that information. The deputies were in uniform, and there was no sign they were able to fire back.
The slain deputies were previously identified by the emotional Sheriff as Sergeant Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey. Sheriff Bobby Schultz remembered the two men as “the best of the best” and called them men of integrity and loyalty. A GoFundMe site has been started to help the young children of Ramirez.
The suspect was dead at the scene. “It appears he just walked up and shot them, then went to his car and shot himself. It’s inexplicable … people will want to know why and we may never have an answer for them,” Bill Cervone, a state attorney, told The Gainesville Sun. The sheriff’s spokesman told Heavy that, no matter the shooter’s motive, there’s zero rationale for murdering two deputies. In that way, the reason doesn’t hold much relevance.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Shooter Murdered the Deputies ‘Without Warning’ By Firing at Them Inside the Restaurant
According to WFLA, a lengthy report released in December 2018 found that Highnote had “anti-law enforcement propaganda inside his home.”
Among the propaganda was a note fastened to his refrigerator reading, according to the television station: “To the cowards who violated EVERY aspect of my life and privacy, destroyed my sense of safety and turned everyone around me against me, you have no idea what’s coming.”
Another note indicated “ALL COPS ARE EVIL, STUPID, LAZY” and a cardboard target read “COWARD COPS.”
A statement from the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department indicated the shootings were completely unprovoked. The double shooting occurred in Trenton, Florida, where tributes have now sprouted up in the two deputies’ memories.
“To date, no clear motive has been established,” the sheriff wrote on April 27,. “And whatever we ultimately learn, no motive could ever be enough for the families of Noel and Taylor. What we do know is that he left his home on Thursday, April 19, 2018 with the ability and apparent intent to kill people. He was armed with two rifles, a handgun, and ample ammunition for each weapon. When he was finished at the Ace China restaurant, he shot himself in his vehicle in the parking lot, just around the corner from where Taylor and Noel died.”
He added: “There is information in our community that he went to a former employer’s business before he killed our deputies. We can confirm that he did go to that day to a business in Newberry where was employed roughly two and a half (2 ½) years ago. We do not know what his intent was in going there, but as employees approached him, as a cowards like him will often do, he fled before they reached him.”
Continued the sheriff: “The investigation has identified but a few contacts with law enforcement over a period of roughly 40 years, most of which are traffic offenses. These incidents were so widely spaced by time, distance, and apparent relevance, that no connections or indications of future violence like this were identified nor could they have been linked together. The violence he perpetrated on Noel and Taylor can never be explained. They were simply assassinated while having a meal.”
The Sheriff’s department has described a stone-cold ambush in which the two law enforcement officers were simply eating a meal in the middle of the afternoon at a local Chinese restaurant. “Both our heroes had simply sat down to eat while on duty. 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. Two holes in the window are visible tonight,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a release. They now believe, however, that he walked inside the restaurant and targeted the deputies there.
Ramirez was 30 and Lindsey was 25, Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz said at a press conference. Many details about the shooting have not been released because of the ongoing investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The shooting unfolded at 3 p.m. in the afternoon of April 19, 2018. “At approximately 3:00pm this afternoon, two Gilchrist County Deputy Sheriffs were shot and killed in the Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton,” the press release stated.
The department announced on Twitter, “GILCHRIST COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE has suffered a terrible tragedy. Please avoid the area of SR 26 from the red light to the area of subway. No suspects are at large. Further updates will be posted later.”
The Sheriff’s Department indicated that a motive was not yet known. “At this point, it remains an active criminal investigation with no apparent motive or indications as to why this tragedy occurred,” the press release revealed.
Sheriff Bobby Schultz was “on scene throughout the afternoon with his deputies and their families, notifying additional loved ones,” the department reported.
“Officials from the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the State Attorney’s Office have all responded to the area to assist,” the release continued.
2. Highnote, Called a ‘Coward’ by the Sheriff, Has Previous Run Ins With the Law & an Expired Weapons Permit
The sheriff labeled Highnote a “coward” during a news conference after the shooting. Highnote’s publicly available history shows a man with a series of petty brushes with the law and an anger management problem. His family members posted a sign at their business telling the media to stay away.
There are no known photos of Highnote except his driver’s license, according to the sheriff, who wrote in a press release: ” There are a few suggested photos floating around on the internet of men that bear a striking resemblance – none of those found to date are him. There is another man who bears the same name, and a somewhat similar description, offered to law enforcement and members of the media – that is not him. The only photograph we’ve uncovered thus far is his driver’s license photo, and those images are not public record. He had no social media or online presence that unmasks him.”
John Highnote has a criminal history in Pinellas County, Florida, but it was an old one. In 1994, he was accused of misdemeanor criminal mischief, but the case was dismissed the following year. In 1978, he was accused of felony carrying a concealed weapon, but the charge was also dismissed. He appears to have led a reclusive life in later years. “Highnote’s home in Bell was a small, one-story structure with a no trespassing sign out front, plywood on the windows and shell casings in the front yard,” The Washington Post reported, adding that neighbors interviews did not know him.
He did have a slew of somewhat more recent traffic offenses in that county, but the most recent is 2001. He had only one offense listed in Gilchrist County court records, which is where his hometown of Bell is located. It was for improper turn in 2012.
Highnote was named in a 2001 report involving the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department being called to a BMW dealership when he was fired from his job there.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department report obtained by Heavy, a man who worked as parts manager for a local BMW dealership called authorities. He stated that “he had a meeting with an ex-employee this morning by the name of John Highnote.” The manager told authorities he had called Highnote into his office to discuss a problem with a customer. “John became very upset and began yelling and screaming in his office…he requested John sit down so they could talk like adults at which time John got upset and threw a cup of coffee on the floor.”
He told Highnote he was terminating him employment and asked Highnote to leave. Highnote “stormed out of the office and, as he was leaving, he mumbled a few things and stated something about ‘I will return.’”
The responding deputy was unable to contact Highnote but told the manager to contact the Sheriff’s Department if Highnote returned. The manager later requested, and received, a trespass warning when Highnote showed back up to get his paycheck, a second report shows.
Among the other minor Pinellas County offenses, according to a review of court records by Heavy: Improper operation of a motorcycle, unlawful speed, running a stop sign and the like. He had a 1977 municipal ordinance violation for drinking alcohol on a public street. A bank sued him in small claims court in 1991.
Gilchrist County has not released a photo of Highnote. Heavy has contacted Pinellas County to see if an old mugshot of him is available but that Sheriff’s Department stated it has no old booking photos of Highnote. He appears to have no obvious social media presence. On Facebook, some people were filling the comment thread of another Floridian named John Highnote with angry comments, but he has a different middle name and DOB and is not the shooter.
The John Highnote who murdered the two deputies was described in previous court records as a white male who stood 5’8″ and weighed 126 pounds. He was also described in court records as slender and balding, with a beard and working as a mechanic for a brake and clutch store.
Highnote also had a weapons permit that expired in 2010 in Volusia County, online records show. He also previously had hunting permits in Florida. He doesn’t come up as currently registered to vote in Florida.
Property records show him with a P.O. Box in Bell and property valued at just under $100,000.
In contrast, the two deputies were lauded by the sheriff for their character.
“They were God-fearing, and they loved what they did and were very proud of it,” the emotional sheriff said of Ramirez and Lindsey. “I loved them and they were loved, and I met with the families today and told them they can be proud of those men. They can be proud, and I’ve proud to have been their sheriff.”
“What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement to the extent it’s been demonized? Every type of hate, every type of put down you can think of, the only thing these men were guilty about was protecting you and me. They just wanted to get something to eat. And to do their jobs,” he added. He said the slayings hit him “like a ton of bricks.”
A friend of Lindey’s echoed the sheriff’s sentiment. “This is too close to home, a coward walked in and murdered a true friend of mine while he was eating. Taylor Lindsey I love you brother,” he wrote.
3. A Woman Sought a Domestic Restraining Order Against John Highnote Years Ago, Saying He Wrote on Her Door & Stalked Her
In one disturbing account, a woman sought a domestic violence injunction against John Highnote in Pinellas County in 1993, court records show. Heavy interviewed that woman but is withholding her name because she was the victim in the case.
The woman stated she was not sure whether the John Highnote who harassed her was the same John Highnote who shot the deputies; however, the St. Petersburg police confirmed that the date of birth of the John Highnote who shot the deputies matches the date of birth of the John Highnote tied to the victim in the harassment case. Furthermore, it turns out that the criminal mischief cases involves the same campaign of harassment against this victim, and court records show that John Hubert Highnote, 59, the eventual shooter of the deputies, was the accused.
The woman told Heavy that she went on a dinner date with Highnote and decided she preferred to be his friend. However, “once he decided something, he wouldn’t let it go,” she said. “You couldn’t get rid of him.”
She said that Highnote launched a frightening campaign of stalking and harassment against her that went on for weeks. He would show up at her house and scrawl “nasty” comments in magic marker on her front door. “I’d get in my car and look in the rear view mirror and there he would be,” she said. “He would come by, knock on my door, write on my door and harass me like that.”
She said the situation escalated to the degree she repeatedly called the police and even scattered thumbtacks on her driveway. The next time his car pulled in, he ended up with a flat tire, she said. She said he was supposed to marry someone else, but the woman had changed her mind and backed out of the relationship.
“He followed me everywhere,” said the woman. “If I wanted to go out some place, I was afraid to.”
The woman said she had no contact with Highnote since that time. At the time of the harassment, she described him as working in an auto supply store and living in an apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida (she provided a partial address and age range that matched those attached to the shooter in database records). She stated that Highnote had a drinking problem.
“It was nerve wracking,” she said. “It scared me. He would come to my house in the middle of the night and knock on the door. He drank a lot of beer.” She never saw him with weapons, though.
The court records in the criminal mischief case, obtained by Heavy from St. Petersburg police, show the woman alleged at the time: “He continually comes by and bothers me, calling, knocking on door. Never leaving me alone, always shouting ugly things to me – spitting on me. Flatting (sic) my tire. Tonight broke out my window in the front. In the past broke out the back window just to be mean to me. Constant calling.” Eventually, though, the woman declined to prosecute. She says that Highnote eventually just left her alone.
A 1994 police report from the same agency says that Highnote himself called to report that an unknown person had slashed his tires. He was working as a manager at an auto supply store at the time and was 35-years-old.
Highnote is now dead following the shooting of the two deputies. The shooter was dead at the scene, although details of how his death unfolded were not yet released. “As fellow deputies responded to the scene, they found the shooter deceased outside the business, and both Deputy Sheriffs where they died of their wounds,” continued the release. It’s not yet been released whether the wounds to the shooter were self-inflicted.
The governor and attorney general pledged any support necessary to help Gilchrist County as news of the attack unfolded. Trenton is located in north Florida, somewhat close to Gainesville.
News4Jax reported through sources, though, that the shooter killed himself in his car after murdering the two deputies.
On the morning after the shootings, the sheriff told the community: “The senseless act committed by this coward has shaken each of us, but we will endure. I ask each of you to be patient, as we grieve with each of you.”
4. Ramirez & Lindsey Were Remembered as Men of Integrity Who Died Protecting the Community
Each deputy’s Facebook page shows a vibrant life surrounded by loved ones. The Facebook page of Sergeant Ramirez shows an officer devoted to family. His most recent public post is a video of a small child on stage that he captioned “speech at Levy County Fair Pageant. #ILuvChicken.” Another photo showed him kissing a small child who was wearing a costume.
Tributes ignited throughout Trenton.
According to the sheriff, Ramirez was married with kids and Lindsey left behind a girlfriend. In 2015, Noel wrote: “I’m a daddy again. My daughter …She was born today 5/7/15 at 3:02pm. Weights 6 lbs and 11 ounces and is 20″ tall. Thanks you God for this miracle. In love with my little princess.” Ramirez previously worked at another sheriff’s office and police department. He was promoted to sergeant about a year ago and had worked with the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department for two years, the sheriff said.
“If you’ve ever seen Sgt. Ramirez smile – infectious,” the sheriff said.
In 2013, he posted about the birth of a namesake son. “My lil miracle. Baby Lito!! Noel Ramirez the third was born on 10/29/13 @ 0718 hrs. Baby Lito weight was 6.5 lbs and height 19 1/2 inches,” he wrote. “I want to thanks God because with out him this miracle wouldn’t happen. I want to thank Gigi for giving me the best gift in the world (love u boo). I want to thanks everyone (family, friend, etc) for all ur prayers n good wishes. This is the best feeling ever.”
Friends posted tributes to Taylor Lindsey and Noel Ramirez on Facebook. “It just doesn’t seem real, I was just talking to you today at the store & you were happy to be moving back to trenton I didn’t once think that would be our last conversation, there really are no words. Rest easy Taylor & Noel,” wrote one on Lindsey’s page.
Another friend wrote on Lindsey’s page, ” I will miss my buddy Taylor Lindsey!!! He was a good guy! I feel like he is gonna text me and tell me he is ok. This doesn’t seem real…. at all!!!” Another friend of Lindsey’s wrote, “Praying for you & your family tonight Taylor Lindsey ?? You threw THE best tacky sweater Christmas party every Christmas break. We’re one of the kindest people I knew.”
Another friend called Lindsey “such a sweet soul” and wrote: “Just when I thought this day could get NO worse… I have absolutely no words. No one should have to die doing what they love. No one should have to worry about their safety going to work or coming home from work. Especially someone like this man! I’m so lucky to have grown up with such a sweet soul but gone way too soon. What is this country coming to? I am in shock…??? Taylor Lindsey is one of the sweetest souls, he did not deserve this. He is a hero and will not be forgotten ever.”
Lindsey had left the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Department and then recently came back, the sheriff said. “He loved doing drug interdiction” and serving people, the sheriff added. According to his Facebook page, Lindsey “studied at Santa Fe College: Kirkpatrick Center Institute of Public Safety,” went to Gainesville High School, lived in Gainesville, Florida, and was single.
5. President Donald Trump Called the Slain Men Heroes & There Were Other Ambush Attacks on Law Enforcement Officers in Recent Years
The president quickly weighed in with a tweet, calling the slain officers heroic. “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,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
The summer of 2016 saw other ambush style attacks against police officers from two different agencies unfold.
Five police officers were slain by a sniper in July 2016. That attack came at the end of a protest against police shootings.
That same summer Gavin Long murdered three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “The military veteran who killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge last summer left behind a suicide note, a prayer from an Islamic holy book and an online trail of his rage against police,” reported KansasCity.com of that attack.
As noted, however, it’s not yet clear what inspired the attack in Trenton.
This article will be updated as more information is learned about John Hubert Highnote.