New dog park memorializes fallen deputy, Kotfila

- Hillsborough County now has a permanent reminder of and memorial to a deputy who died in the line of duty – saving the life of another.

Last year, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy John Kotfila, Jr. was hit and killed by a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway. Deputy Kotfila swerved into the path of a wrong-way driver in order to shield another car from the oncoming danger. Since the crash, the expressway has been a place his family has avoided.

But below the elevated roadway, not far from where Deputy Kotfila was killed, his legacy lives on in a place created for something he loved most in life – his K9 partner, Dexter. In honor of his love for Dexter, dogs and their two-legged friends in Tampa now have a new place to spend time together: The Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park.

“His dog was his life. He loved his family and all that but the dog was a big part of his life and everyone who knew him knew that he would show up here and there - Home Depot, Chick-fil-A - and he would have the dog with him. Everywhere, Dexter went,” John Kotfila, Sr. said.  

After Kotfila's death, his parents adopted his German Shepherd, Dexter.

"He’s almost become like my son. I know he's a dog but he's almost become like John Robert. John Robert called me a lot and we talked a lot and I don't have that anymore but having his dog just gives me that purpose every day. I take him down to the cemetery and we always stop by his grave. I almost didn't take him but I’m very glad that I did," Theresa Kotfila said.

The park will be a safe place for canines to play and a place to remember those who keep our community safe.

“I hope they feel and experience not just the loss of a deputy sheriff but the loss of a really good person and think about all the other law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Theresa added.

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