- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The past seven months haven’t been easy for Bill DeMott and his family.

DeMott’s daughter, 20-year-old UCF student Keri Anne was killed in October when another car swerved into her lane and crashed into her head-on.

The driver, who troopers say had a blood-alcohol level of .132, was charged with DUI manslaughter.

But things have gotten a little better for 51-year-old DeMott thanks to a newfound friendship that’s developed into more of a brotherly bond. DeMott and UCF police officer Frank Imparato found common ground in their passion to stop drunk driving; now the two are on a mission.

“You meet people in life that you’re connected to for whatever reason, and tragedy brought us together,” DeMott said. “Frank’s now part of the DeMott family just like I’m part of the UCF Police Department’s family, and we’re trying to change things and save lives.”

Several months after the October crash, Imparato, who specializes in DUI enforcement, reached out to DeMott after hearing about his daughter’s death.

“I knew that with Bill’s passion and drive for DUI enforcement, coupled with my drive and passion for DUI enforcement, some real changes could be made,” Imparato said. “Now as a team, we go out there and educate all our students and make sure they don’t go out there driving and endangering their lives and the lives of others.”

Imparato had long admired DeMott, a former professional wrestler most recently on the reality series “WWE Tough Enough,” before they’d met.

The two talk at least once a week, joking about wrestling moves and Imparato’s hobby of performing magic shows. They also support one another on their journey to make Keri Anne’s death mean something.

The duo have shared Keri Anne’s story with new UCF police recruits and with students at Timber Creek High School during a mock DUI crash before the school’s prom. They also talked with UCF students last month during a DUI awareness event on campus.

DeMott will continue to spread awareness with a presentation for new troopers at the Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy in Tallahassee.

“Hearing how your work can help prevent what happened to Bill and his family helps inspire these new recruits,” Imparato said.

DeMott’s gone out with Imparato for ride-alongs several times during which Imparato nabbed three drunk drivers and helped confiscate about a dozen fake IDs.

DeMott said it isn’t easy seeing someone intoxicated behind the wheel because it reminds him of what happened to his daughter, who had hoped to become a social worker to help others.

“She (Keri Anne) was such a giving, wonderful person who was just starting her life .” DeMott said. “These students need to hear my tragedy and need to feel my pain. It hurts every day.”

On their latest ride-along, DeMott and Imparato targeted UCF-area bars on Cinco De Mayo. As the bars filled with patrons donning sombreros looking for tequila shots and margaritas, police and Orange County deputies patrolled in hopes of preventing fights, underage drinking and drunk drivers.

Law enforcement broke up fights, one leading to a man with a bloody and broken nose outside Stagger Inn, confiscated about a dozen fake IDs and arrested at least one angry bar patron who was screaming that he had a wristband and was allowed to drink at the Knight’s Pub, a bar across the street from UCF.

The duo’s camaraderie shined as DeMott pointed out a man acting suspiciously in the parking lot of the Knight’s Pub. Imparato looked over and saw the man was crouched and appeared to be tugging at door handles. As Imparato turned on his emergency lights, the man ran off and Imparato chased after him.

The man ran across busy Alafaya Trail and into a wooded area on UCF’s campus near University Boulevard. He was shocked with a stun gun and pepper sprayed before being captured.

He was arrested on burglary and theft charges after police say he stole $270 of Red Berry Ciroc vodka and Old Thompson Whiskey from the bar and took $60 out of one of the vehicles.

Imparato joked that he and DeMott should celebrate the arrest with a steak dinner.

“Just think, if we didn’t meet I might not have seen that guy and there would have been a burglar on the loose,” Imparato remarked to DeMott.

Last month 23-year-old Keith Pumphrey the man arrested for DUI manslaughter charges in the wreck that killed DeMott’s daughter, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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