TAMPA, Fla. — The wrong-way driver who died in a crash that also took the life of a Tampa Police officer was driving over 100mph and was intoxicated, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said on Thursday.
Master Police Officer Jesse Madsen, 45, and Joshua Montague, 25, of Golden, Colorado, both died early Tuesday morning on I-275.
Dugan said both vehicles were "obliterated" after the crash. He added that Officer Madsen is a "true American hero" by deliberately putting his vehicle into the path of Montague's.
Dugan added that detectives believe Officer Madsen was on his way home and was not responding to the call. He said the situation happened so fast, they believe Officer Madsen reacted and placed himself in the path of the car.
"We believe Jesse Madsen was attempting to stop this wrong-way driver from putting anyone else's life in danger by putting down his own," Dugan said.
Dugan said Officer Madsen's vehicle was in a ditch and they were unable to get him out.
"I truly feel for our officers who were first there and their sense of helplessness," Dugan said. "And again, when you have alcohol involved this whole thing could have been avoided."
Dugan later described Officer Madsen as the kind of person you wanted in your corner.
"Jesse Madsen, to put it quite bluntly, he was a badass," Dugan said. "If you ever got in trouble, if you ever called 911, if you ever needed a backup — he's the guy you wanted."
According to Dugan, Montague was in the process of moving to the area. He was driving a rental car and was in Tampa for less than 12 hours before the crash.
Dugan said the full toxicology results for Montague are pending. Detectives are still following up with who he was with Monday night and who he talked to, but Dugan said there's reason to believe he was at a local bar. He said beer bottles were also found in Montague's hotel room.
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Officer Madsen will receive the Police Purple Shield award, which is for officers who suffer extreme physical injury or death in the line of duty, and the Medal of Honor, which is the highest award an employee can get for distinguishing themselves with an act of heroism at the cost of imminent personal danger.
Officer Madsen's family will be presented with the Gold Cross Award, which is given to families of LEOs who die in the line of duty.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor encouraged people in the community to thank a first responder and to support Officer Madsen's family.
"We have an incredible law enforcement agency here in the City of Tampa, and the men and women in uniform work tirelessly day and night," Castor said. "As Officer Madsen so tragically displayed, each of them would lay down their lives to protect our community."
Madsen is the 32nd police officer to die in the line of duty for the Tampa Police Department, according to Dugan. He leaves behind a wife, a 10-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son and a 16-year-old son. His wife is an officer with the University of South Florida Police Department.
A candlelight vigil will take place outside of the department's headquarters Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. to honor Officer Madsen. It's open to the public.
Officer Madsen's funeral will be held Tuesday, March 16 at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. Visitation will take place at 10 a.m. and the funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. The committal service will be held at 2:30 p.m. at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
The funeral is also open to the public.