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Fallen Tampa officer from Ohio veered into path of wrong-way driver to protect others, chief says

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Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 23:14:09-05

TAMPA, Fla. (WFTS) — Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said an officer killed in the line of duty early Tuesday morning may have veered into the path of a wrong-way driver to protect others.

Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen, 45, served as a Tampa Police Officer for 16 and a half years. He was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio and served as a police officer there from 2002 to 2006, according to the Shaker Heights Police Department.

It is with great sadness that we share news that Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen was tragically killed this morning...

Posted by Shaker Heights Police Department on Tuesday, March 9, 2021

“The bad news made its way through our building very, very quickly. To know that this was an individual who served our community here in Shaker Heights and still having some colleagues here who worked with him and still associate with him, it was even more shocking,” Shaker Heights Police Sgt. Tim Grafton said. “We gathered around and there were many people who had very fond memories of him and wanted to share those memories. We kind of have a way of letting our feelings loose when we're talking with one another. It’s maybe just an extra level of comfort there.”

Just before 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Tampa Police say they received calls of a car driving south in the northbound lanes of I-275, police noted both going fast and swerving through lanes. Within a minute of the first call, the car collided with Officer Madsen's police car between the Hillsborough and Sligh Avenue exits.

Police say the impact killed both Madsen and that driver, who police identified as 25-year-old Joshua Daniel Montague of Golden, Colorado.

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"We have reason to believe that [Madsen] veered into this oncoming car to protect others," said Dugan. "That is what we have gathered through some of our witnesses, some of our investigation. So when you look at someone who’s earned seven life-saving awards, it's no surprise that he would take such swift action and do this.”

Madsen leaves behind a wife, a 10-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son and a 16-year-old son. He was a seven-time recipient of the Tampa Police Department's Life Saving Award. Chief Dugan says he is the 32nd police officer to die in the line of duty for the Tampa Police Department.

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"The Tampa Police Department will go into a seven-day period of mourning, but I want everyone to know that they have my word that while we mourn the loss of one of our fallen officers, we will do everything within our abilities to keep you safe," said Dugan.

Mayor Jane Castor joined Chief Dugan outside of TPD headquarters Tuesday morning. Castor said the city will light up blue to honor Officer Madsen and his service to the community.

"If he took steps to try to save others by laying down his life, that really is a true testament to the kind of individual that Jesse Madsen was," Castor said.

Mayor Castor, Chief Dugan give update on wrong way crash

Tampa Police said the investigation is ongoing and is currently undetermined as to why and where the driver entered the interstate going the wrong way.

Madsen was also a United States Marine combat veteran. Rafael Pizano with Tampa Fire Rescue says he crossed paths with Madsen on the job, and they became friends. Pizano says Madsen was down-to-earth, loyal, and an all-around good person. He says the fallen officer loved helping others and would always put other people before himself.

"I'm at a lack of words, especially knowing he had the three kids and a 10-year-old daughter. It's just kind of stunning," said Pizano. "One moment, somebody's here, and you come into work, put on the news, and you know the individual and what a great person they are, and the next moment, they’re not here. That father’s no longer here, that husband’s no longer here, that son is no longer here, and that buddy.”

A procession of TPD officers could be seen early Tuesday escorting an ambulance from the crash scene. Later in the day, a tribute was posted outside TPD headquarters with Officer Madsen's badge number, 507.

Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen police escort

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted his condolences to Officer Madsen's family and TPD.

“It pains me to say that for the third time this year, our Tampa Bay law enforcement community has lost one of our own in the line of duty. Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen was killed in a wrong-way crash this morning," Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said. "Officer Madsen’s sacrifice for the safety of our community will never be forgotten. All of us on #teamHCSO are praying for and will stand with you @TampaPD.”

For those interested in donating to Officer Madsen's family, the Tampa Police foundation Rise Tampa has set up the following ways:

  • In Person: Monetary donations can be submitted to any Bank of Tampa branch in MPO Madsen's name
  • By Mail: Checks or money orders can be sent to:
    • RISE Tampai/c/o MPO Madsen PO Box 172816 Tampa, FL 33672

All lanes of I-275 have reopened after they were closed for several hours.