By SARAH TAYLOR for The Blaze
A Tampa police officer is dead after he intentionally veered into the path of what appeared to be an out-of-control driver, according to reports.
Witnesses say that the officer, Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen, swerved into the path of a motorist who was erratically driving southbound down the northbound lanes of I-275 on Tuesday, WFLA-TV reported.
Authorities pronounced Madsen, a U.S. Marine combat vet, dead just hours after the crash.
What are the details?
Investigators say that Madsen — who won seven life-saving awards during his career as an officer of the law — intentionally swerved into the path of an oncoming vehicle in order to protect other motorists from imminent danger.
The driver of the other vehicle, 25-year-old Joshua Daniel Montague of Golden, Colorado, died as a result of the crash. It remains unknown at the time of this reporting why Montague was traveling southbound at a “high rate of speed” and “swerving through the lanes” of the interstate’s northbound side.
According to Fox News, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan called Madsen a “guardian of this city” who will “never be forgotten.”
“We have reason to believe that he had veered into this oncoming car to protect others,” Dugan explained. “So when you look at someone who has earned seven life-saving awards, it’s no surprise that he would take such swift action and do this.”
The information, according to Dugan, was obtained through eyewitness accounts of the fatal crash.
The 17-year department veteran leaves behind a wife and three children, ages 16, 12, and 10.
His family told Fox News that Madsen was a “strong, courageous” man who dreamed of being a law enforcement official since the age of eight.
Julia Madsen, the late officer’s stepmother, told the outlet, “I don’t really know what to say other than he was extremely loved and was a very outgoing, strong, courageous guy who wanted to be a police officer since he was eight years old. He was the last one you think would die first, he was just so strong.”
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said that Madsen’s family is “clearly devastated” by the loss.
“They are very, very thankful for the thoughts and prayers of the entire community,” she added.
‘We’re talking about a cop’s cop and a hero’s hero’
Danny Alvarez with the Police Benevolent Association said that Madsen was a model officer.
“He served in the Marine Corps. He served overseas. He’s a decorated combat veteran. He also served in the Florida National Guard. He served with three police units until he settled here at the Tampa Police Department,” Alvarez said. “So service was nothing new to him.”
Alvarez added, “When we talk about Jesse Madsen, we’re talking about a cop’s cop and a hero’s hero. He went out the way he lived his life, and last night he put himself in between a car and a civilian and he knew the sacrifice he was making and he knew the risk and he chose to do it anyway.”
Madsen’s badge, number 507, will be retired and his name will be etched into the Tampa Police Fallen Officers Memorial, according to reports.
A memorial fund in honor of the late officer has been set up to benefit the family.