An Open Letter To The Tampa Bay Community:
We, the Kotfila and Cahoon families, extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who honored and remembered our son, Deputy Sheriff John Robert Kotfila Jr. of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
First, we want to thank the entire Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which handled everything with class and dignity. Specifically Sheriff David Gee, who sets a high standard for his office. Sheriff Gee displayed grace and compassion that we will never forget. We also wish to thank his command staff for being there throughout the whole process. A special thanks to Chaplain John Garbreana and HCSO’s family assistance personnel, and to our guardian angels, Detective Mike Blair and Corporal Andrea Reichard. They made it so our families were able to bear this tragedy.
We also wish to thank:
- The drivers who did an amazing job, especially Terry’s driver, Detective Troy Davis, who knew when to talk and when to be supportive.
- Corporal Stacey Molina Dearth and the HCSO Honor Guard, whose professionalism and precision left all of us humbled.
- HCSO's motorcycle squad
- Sgt. Wil Roeling and John’s classmates from SOT 11
- Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualteri and the PCSO, with a special nod to Captain Dwayne Sommers
- PCSO Sergeant Mike Ferdon and the establishments who kept us fed (Molly Goodheads, Ozona Blue, Fairway Pizza, and Boyles Backyard)
- Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward and the TPD and
- HCSO Master Deputy Gary Herman for his amazing eulogy for an amazing young man.
Words cannot express the grief and sorrow we feel at the death of our beloved son, grandson, brother, and nephew. Nor can words describe our appreciation to the Tampa Bay community for its collective response, from the time we landed at Tampa International Airport until the time we left. To all of the law enforcement officers and first responders from across the nation, and Canada, who came to pay their respects, we say thank you. And thank you to the Coy Sykes Foundation for its unwavering support of all first responders. We say well done.
We thank Father Kenneth Malley and the staff of St. Timothy Catholic Church for performing a wonderful service. For someone who had never met our son, Father Malley grasped John's essence so very well. We would like to thank Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for their heartfelt comments to us before the service. Governor Scott also penned some kind words in an article about our son and the tough job of being a police officer. And we cannot express our appreciation enough to Rebecca Bailey and her staff at Blount & Curry Funeral Home.
Lastly, we've heard amazing stories about John, from his law enforcement colleagues to citizens who simply wanted to offer support to the family of a fallen deputy who sacrificed his life to save two innocent people he did not know. We are all awed by the way John Robert Kotfila Jr. lived and inspired others.
So we thank all of you for the hugs, prayers, thoughts, stories, cards, on-line posts, photographs, flowers, donations, fruit baskets, cupcakes, lasagna, meat platters, food and donations. But most of all we thank you for your love.
And as our wise-beyond-her-years daughter Katelyn said at the funeral: “In this crazy mixed up world that we live in where cops are now portrayed as the bad guys, the next time you see a cop thank him or her for the thankless job they do.''
Respectfully and gratefully,
The Kotfilas (Theresa, John Sr., Michael, Katelyn, and Patrick)
The Cahoons (Kathleen, Robert, Bobby, and Lynn)