Dog park named after Hillsborough deputy killed in wrong-way crash

HCSO Deputy John Kotfila Jr., 30, was killed in a wrong-way crash.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy who put his life on the line and paid the ultimate price last year was honored and remembered on Saturday.

Deputy John Kotfila Jr. was known not only for his love of law enforcement, but also for his strong bond with his German Shepherd Dexter. It’s that bond that will serve as an inspiration to dog lovers throughout the Tampa Bay area. 

The official dedication of the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park in Channelside was held Saturday morning.

Kotfila’s family, still reeling from the loss, was there for the ceremony.

“This is very, very healing,” John Kotfila Sr. said. “Very therapeutic.”

Deputy Kotfila was killed at the age of 30 by a wrong-way driver. He intentionally drove into the path of the oncoming car and saved a woman’s life.

More than a year later, the park in his memory sits beneath the Selmon Expressway, the same road where he lost his life.

“When Deputy Kotfila lost his life and we learned of his love for dogs, it seemed like a perfect match,” said Joe Waggoner with the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

“That was his baby, Dexter,” his sister Katelyn Kotfila said. “My mom always used to say, I’ll never have grandchildren but I’ll have a granddog.”

Kotfila’s family from the sheriff’s office is grateful for the park.

“What an absolute honor that somebody would build an everlasting tribute to one of our deputy sheriffs who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Col. Chad Chronister.

It seems everyone knew how inseparable Dexter and Kotfila were.

“His dog was his best friend and to see all these dogs running around here, he would be absolutely tickled pink,” his father said.

Now the park, and Deputy Kotfila’s name, will be remembered for generations to come.

The park has top of the line canine turf that’s safe for puppy paws. The City of Tampa is expected to contribute $15,000 a year to maintain it.

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