DUI traffic stop changes man's life

Posted at 6:31 PM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-20 18:32:00-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In the Spring of 2013 Jon Sami was visiting his grandmother in Delray Beach. One night he drank a bottle of vodka and went out bar hopping with a friend in downtown West Palm Beach. What happened next changed his life.

Sami’s friend was driving and caught the eye of West Palm Beach Police Officer Dan Dillard. “I was behind the vehicle as it was going south on Dixie," Dillard recalled. "As it made a left turn onto Tanglewood it hit the curb."

From Tanglewood, Sami's friend turned right on Olive Avenue. He was heading the wrong way down a one way street. "I initiated a traffic stop and pulled the vehicle over and made contact with the occupants in the vehicle," said Dillard.

Police dash cam video captured the traffic stop. Sami and his friend were drunk. Officer Dillard says the driver blew two times the legal limit.

"Thank god for that moment," Sami said. "As a result of that, that was my wake-up call and I was able to clean up my life."

Sami says he hit rock bottom and joined a sober network. After a year of sobriety he went back to college.

"I didn't tell my family that I applied to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University because my drinking as so out of control nobody would really take me seriously," Sami explained.

He was accepted and documented his new life in a photo album. The album showed about a week ago to the West Palm Beach Police department, addressed to Officer Dillard.

"This is the photo album that was sent to me by Jon," Dillard said opening album. "Here's his note to me explaining proof of his sobriety and how he got to this point."

The photos show Sami's sobriety milestones, his drive to college and his internship for a major airline.

"Here's his trip to Dubai," Dillard pointed out.

"I took the initiative to create the photo album for Officer Dillard because I wanted him to see the amazing things that happened in my life," Sami said.

Officer Dillard has been with the West Palm Beach Police for seven years and says he's never received anything like this. "That actually is the best reward than any commendation or reward you can get from your boss or the city or anything but actually seeing somebody's life change," Dillard explained. "That is the most rewarding thing for me. That's how I feel."

Two lives forever changed.

"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason," Sami said. "Without Officer Dan pulling my friend over and without me having to go through that pain of humiliation and that anguish I don't think I would be sitting in this chair right now."

Sami graduated from Embry-Riddle in December in the top of his class. He now works in Manhattan. In his free time he says he helps young people get clean, build their resumes and get back into school. Sami calls it paying it forward and says it's the most important part of his day.