By Cindy Jo Ayers
On April 19, 2018, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Gainesville Field Office began an investigation of the two deceased Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office deputies and one deceased offender. The investigation began on the scene at Ace China Restaurant which is located at 1122 E. Wade Street in Trenton.
When the FDLE investigators arrived they were briefed by Sheriff Robert Schultz. They learned that Deputies Noel Ramirez, Jr. and Taylor Fletcher Lindsey were having lunch at the restaurant when John Highnote entered the building and shot them. Highnote was found deceased inside a white Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot.
The report stated that numerous law enforcement agencies were already on the scene including Alachua County, Levy County and Dixie County Sheriff’s Offices. Trenton and Chiefland Police Departments were on the scene as well as Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Due to the nature and magnitude of the incident, the scene which originally only encompassed the plaza and parking lot, was expanded to include State Road 26. Resources from the FDLE Live Oak Field Office, Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center and the Jacksonville Regional Operational Center were deployed to assist with the investigation.
The subject or shooter was identified as John Highnote of Bell, FL. and he was the owner of the Jeep Cherokee where his body was found. He had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right temple.
The report included an incident that had happened earlier in the day of April 19, at Coleman Construction in Newberry. Highnote had worked for the company about 2 1/2 years ago. He was initially employed as a dump truck driver but after a road rage incident he had been moved to their trailer store on Main Street. He went on to have confrontations with customers and was easily agitated and angered.
He was dismissed from their employment following an incident where he became enraged over a malfunctioning printer. He became so enraged that he smashed the printer against the wall. At that point he was terminated.
On the day of the homicides Highnote had a confrontation with a mechanic foreman who was driving a Coleman Construction truck near the Napa Auto Parts Store. Afterward, he followed the mechanic back to Coleman’s yard and proceeded to drive around the yard and then into an open bay of the building where the mechanic and another employee confronted him. He left the yard but parked his car across the road for the next 20 minutes. The mechanic and fellow worker watched him and suspected that he may have been drinking while sitting in his car.
Investigators interviewed his sister who lives in North St. Petersburg, Florida. She said that she had not seen her brother in years. She had spoken to him after their brother passed away in January 2018. She said that he lived alone in a home near Bell that he had inherited from their parents. She said he had medical issues such as being overweight and having high blood pressure. But she did not know of him having mental issues. But her husband described Highnote as being “a little high strung.” His sister said he was not married and had never been. He was described as a loner by his brother-in-law. He said “I’m shocked and I’m not” when they were told that Highnote had murdered two deputies in Gilchrist County. The brother-in-law went to say Highnote was a recluse who hardly communicated, and did not get along with the rest of the family. He said, “He just washed his hands of everybody and everything.” His sister and her husband both said, “John was not happy.”
When FDLE investigators went into Highnote’s home on April 20, they found three cameras, two deer cameras, receipts, empty long gun box, 12 assorted magazines, 67 boxes of assorted ammunition of various caliber and brands, six bags of miscellaneous loose ammunition , five boxes of assorted ammunition of various caliber and brands, miscellaneous gun parts, two memory cards, three notebooks, hate note, empty handgun case and speed loader. They also found several pieces of metal and iron riddled with bullet holes. In the kitchen they found a typed note on the refrigerator. The note expressed extreme dislike for law enforcement and suggested the author was going to do violence to law enforcement. Some 13 items were taken from the home as evidence.
During the investigation it was discovered that in 2006 a stalking report was written by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. A woman reported that Highnote was stalking her after she started dating him five weeks before. He called her repeatedly, threatened her, left phone messages and followed her. After a Clay County Law Enforcement Officer contacted Highnote and told him to stop bothering the woman he agreed to leave her alone. When the officer followed up in the case the woman said he had stopped stalking her and she no longer wanted CCSO to pursue a criminal investigation.
A neighbor believed that Highnote had lived alone in the home since 2008 when his mother died. The neighbor described him as a recluse, a loner who had no friends.
The report stated that they found cameras in his home. The first camera was in the laundry room, pointed toward the kitchen. The second was in the kitchen pointed toward the refrigerator and the third was mounted on an outside shed and pointed at the left rear corner of the residence, which captured the garage door and back of the home. All the windows of the home were boarded up.
Highnote himself was captured on the majority of the photos. Sometimes the camera would capture a deer or a serviceman who likely worked for the power company. In over 200 of the photos Highnote had a handgun or a rifle in his hand. The report stated besides his affinity for walking around his home with a handgun or rifle, there was no specific evidence to indicate a planned attack on law enforcement.
In his Jeep investigators found a racist hate propaganda note and several other letters which were of similar content. They also found several guns and lots of ammunition for those guns in the vehicle and on his body.
In Highnotes residence they found a typed note with anti-law enforcement propaganda. The note went on to make threats against law enforcement. A shooting target was mounted on cardboard located on the dining room table with the hand written words, “Coward Cops.”
The report included a time line which stated that both deputies arrived and parked at the restaurant at 2:53 in the afternoon. Both deputies entered the restaurant at 2:54 p.m. At 2:57 the suspect vehicle passed the restaurant heading westbound and continued west. At 2:58 the suspect’s vehicle was observed coming back east and turning into the most west entrance of the parking lot. Between 3:01:15 and 3:01:24 p.m. there is activity near the door of the restaurant. Although the video is not clear it appeared the subject exited and walked back west along the front of adjoining businesses toward his vehicle.
The conclusion of the investigation was as follows, Sgt. Noel Ramirez, Jr. and Dep. Taylor Lindsey were having lunch at Ace China Restaurant in Trenton when John Highnote walked in the restaurant carrying a Ruger Ranch .223 caliber rifle. Upon entering he shot and killed both deputies. He then exited the restaurant and committed suicide inside his parked vehicle.
Sgt. Ramirez and Dep. Lindsay had no prior law enforcement contact with Highnote. Both Sgt. Ramirez and Dep. Lindsey worked that day in Gilchrist County Deputy uniforms and drove marked GCSO patrol vehicles.
The report stated that Highnote was described as a loner, a recluse and being high strung. Hate and racist propaganda writings were discovered in his vehicle and in his residence. The investigation revealed he was fired from Coleman Construction in Newberry approximately two and a half years ago due to “anger issues.” In the late morning hours of April 19, 2018, prior to killing the deputies, he was observed inside his parked vehicle drinking beer in front of Coleman Construction.
There is no evidence in this case being maintained by FDLE and all investigative aspects have concluded. It was recommended by FDLE that the case be closed. The FDLE investigative report was over 130 pages.
FDLE concludes Deputies’ murder investigation
By Cindy Jo Ayers