Fallen deputy's sister follows in his footsteps

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It's a day when pride runs deep at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office: New deputies get their badges pinned on by family members.

Deputy Katelyn Kotfila's father is a Massachusetts state trooper. He's proud, but he didn't encourage it.

"[I] tried to talk her out of it, tried to talk all of them out of it. Then three of our four kids ended up police officers,” he explained.  “So maybe it is in the blood and the genes."

Katelyn wasn't planning to be a cop until she was inspired by the brother she was so close to.  John Kotfila Jr. was a Hillsborough deputy sheriff who gave his life.

“I think I found some courage I didn’t know I had. Some strength.  I said, if he can do it, I can do it," she said.

Her brother John was the deputy who saw a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Crosstown and deliberately swerved into his path to save a motorist about to be hit head-on.  Deputy Kotfila was killed.

"I think sometimes your life boils down to one second in time,” Sheriff David Gee said. “We train and train, but at the end of the day, that's his character and that's who he was.”

Both of Katelyn Kotfila's grandfathers, an uncle, and a cousin were also police officers. But out of all the Kotfilas who've worn a badge, Katelyn becomes the first female.

Now, as she takes her place in the family tradition, she’ll always remember John.

"I know I don't really fear death as much,” she offered.  “I know it’s one step closer to him and one day I’ll be with him again. So I don't have the fear I once did."