Family pushing for DUI law changes to honor son's heroic sacrifice

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BOSTON – A Cape Cod family is hoping their late son’s heroism as a sheriff’s deputy in Florida will help inspire change back here at home.

In March of 2016, John Robert Kotfila used his own cruiser to stop a wrong-way drunk driver. Kotfila did not survive the head-on impact, but his sacrifice helped save the lives of others.

“He was just that type of guy,” John Robert’s sister Katelyn Kotfila said.

Inspired by her brother’s passion and countless accomplishments, Katelyn decided to follow in his footsteps by becoming a deputy in Hillsborough County, Florida picking up right where he left off. 

“Every time I'd see something Hillsborough, it reminded me of him. So, it's kind of like being here with him, having him around all of the time, which is awesome. And being around his friends he had down here, I feel a lot closer to him being here,” she said.

But for her parents, it was much harder - after losing their son they hoped their daughter would stay in Massachusetts.

“She's my only daughter and its hard,” Theresa Kotfila said.

Katelyn is prepared to fil some big shoes and honor her brother’s life in Florida.

“If we're able to get less drunk people on the road, not behind the wheel, his sacrifice will actually be worth something,” she said.

Back home, Theresa and John Kotfila are honoring their son by working with lawmakers on Beacon Hill to pass a new drunk driving bill allowing first time offenders to use an ignition interlock device in place of having their license suspended for six months.

“Hopefully, it will change the behavior and maybe even make a difference in somebody else's life that -- that they won’t get that phone call or have to see that,” Theresa said.

More than a thousand miles may separate Katelyn and her parents, but at the end of the day, their mission is the same.

“I think he would be very proud with what we're trying to accomplish,” John said.

The ignition interlock measure is part of a sweeping criminal justice reform bill currently being debated on Beacon Hill. A vote is expected any day now.

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