With a New York Police Department patch clutched in one hand, 9-year-old Kaden Rogers waved with the other to first responders who drove by him.
Dressed in a shirt that said “I Back the Blue,” Kaden stood at the edge of South Main Street outside the Bell High School gymnasium Tuesday morning.
“I’m thinking about being a police officer when I grow up because they are the real superheroes without powers and stuff,” Kaden said.
Kaden said Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25, and Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 29, were brave. The deputies were eating at Ace China restaurant on Thursday when John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell, Florida, shot and killed them, according to Alligator archives.
Five days after the shooting, Kaden and thousands of others — holding American flags, black and blue ribbons and “We Back our Blue” and “Gilchrist Strong” signs — watched the procession of more than 100 law enforcement agencies from across the country escort two black hearses from the school for about 45 minutes down small country roads to Bronson Cemetery.
Before the procession, the deputies were memorialized in a service in the school’s gym. About 2,000 people, including law enforcement officers from Florida, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, filled the gym’s bleachers and folding chairs on its court.
Those who spoke at the ceremony, including Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz and Gov. Rick Scott, talked about the sacrifices both men made. Scott said the most difficult part of his job is attending officers’ funerals.
Schultz said Lindsey told his mother when he was young that he wanted to “ptrol,” before he could say the word patrol.
He said Ramirez once read that his name was on the “Outstanding List” and was so excited that he went to lunch to celebrate but was less thrilled when told that meant he had outstanding reports.
“There’s no way that I could do them justice. There’s no way that I can articulate what they meant to us,” Schultz said.
Kim Davis, a High Springs resident and UF alumna from the 1980s, stared at the two caskets on the stage in front of her, each covered in an American flag, and the four deputies silently guarding them.
She knew the men inside both caskets. She used to hire Ramirez, when he wasn’t working for the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, on the weekends at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.
“The deputies may be gone, but they’ll never be forgotten here in Gilchrist County,” Davis said.
After the ceremony ended at about noon, attendees exited and stood outside the gym as both caskets were carried to the hearses and about 45 bagpipers and drummers from different agencies played “Amazing Grace.” Members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood on both sides of the road leading to Bell’s South Main Street holding American flags.
The music stopped, and the only sound was Ramirez’s father crying and calling out in Spanish. As one deputy held him, he said “My son, they killed my son.”
At the cemetery, three helicopters from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police Joint Aviation Unit flew overhead after bagpipers and drummers played for the deputies one last time.
Gainesville Police Sergeant Renee Guyan was one of the seven GPD officers that fired three ceremonial shots into air to end the funeral service at about 3:30 p.m. with a 21-gun salute.
“It’s a way to support the family and show how much their family members’ service means to the community and to us,” she said.