By Tamas Mondovics
Each year, Sheriff David Gee and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office gathers for a solemn ceremony honoring local deputies who laid down their lives in the line of duty. The day reserved for the emotionally charged occasion saw a large crowd of family and friends paying their respects at the Sheriff’s Memorial and Fallen Heroes Wall outside the sheriff’s office headquarters in Ybor City held earlier this month.
With the recent loss of Deputy John R. Kotfila, Jr., the Sheriff’s Office had to add another name to the list of deputies who were killed in the line of duty, raising the number to 16 since 1874, when Deputy Richard Roach was shot and killed at his home in the suburbs of Tampa. His murder has never been solved.
The memorial service began with a speech from former FOX 13 anchor John Wilson, followed by a special tribute including a memorial wreath presented by Sheriff Gee in honor of each of the 16 deputies.
In March Deputy Kotfila was hit and killed by a drunk, wrong way driver on the Selmon Expressway. A crash witness to the accident said that the deputy sacrificed his own life by taking the impact in the crash. While reflecting on the loss of deputy Kotfila, Wilson drew attention to the reason for the occasion.
“It is our charge to honor and to never forget the spirit of service and sacrifice made by all these officers,” Wilson said. “Deputy Kotfila will be in our hearts forever. His name is now etched in this wall forever so that his legacy and contribution to mankind will not be forgotten.”
During the memorial service, Kotfila Jr. was memorialized with a special plate on the fallen heroes wall.
Gee was pleased to see so many in attendance and thanked the community for their support of the Sheriff’s Office.
“This was a great ceremony as it pays tribute to a lot of heroes who deserve it,” Gee said. “This Wall of Heroes Memorial is a sacred place for us. We want to thank the community for their support. People need to know and understand the sacrifices of what these deputies and law enforcement members are doing.”
For more information, visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.