TAMPA, Fla. — It’s been nearly three weeks since Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen sacrificed his own life to save others.
Now, a local woman, who was driving down the same road as Officer Madsen that night, is sharing the story of his heroic actions that she witnessed, which she says are the reason she’s still here today.
Officer Jesse Madsen took the oath “to serve and protect” more than 16 years ago when he joined the Tampa Police Department.
An oath he fulfilled when he veered in front of a drunk driver to protect those in his path.
“It is the story of Officer Madsen. He saved seven lives, he saved my life, he will always live in my heart,” said Yarrellys Ruiz, who was driving down the same road as Officer Madsen that night.
Officer Madsen had already received seven life-saving awards during his time with the Tampa Police Department, and that night, he earned an eighth; protecting Yarrellys Ruiz from a danger she knew nothing about.
“I think about him and his family every single day. To me, he’s a real hero. You know, it’s sad because he’s gone, but at the same time, one of the biggest things is I just want to keep his name alive. Like I want the world to know how amazing he was, and all the things he did for other people,” said Ruiz.
In her mind, this story is all his.
“I think he’s special. I think to me he’s a special officer. When I see his badge number, you know, number 507, to me that’s like a strong number. His SUV number was 540,” said Ruiz.
Yarrellys hasn’t met Officer Madsen’s wife, but she’d like to. Until then, she has a message for her and Officer Madsen’s three children.
“I want her to know that I’m here. That I’m here for her, that I’m here for the kids, that I will always be here,” said Ruiz.
It’s a night she’ll never forget.
“Now I see life different. Like, I want to help people, I want to be like he was,” said Ruiz.
But Yarrellys hopes someday she’ll get the opportunity to express her gratitude on the other side.
“I would say ‘Thank you for saving my life, and saving the life of others,’ I would hug him. You don’t understand. I will hug him, and I don’t think I can let go,” said Ruiz.
Yarrellys now has plans to work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to help fight drunk driving. She also says she will ensure his name is never forgotten.