TAMPA, Fla. — Neighbors lined up Tuesday morning to support fallen Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen's family as a motorcade escorted them to his funeral.
"The entire neighborhood lined up for a mile or so down old woods to show the motorcade and family support," neighbor Tom Mcclanahan said.
"It was amazing how many people came out. It’s very hard to hold back the tears. Anyone who knew this man was touched by his kindness. Truly a wonderful human being."
Ahead of the funeral, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said dealing with the loss of Officer Madsen has been tough.
"It's something that I've never experienced in my life," Dugan said. "When you're a chief you always worry this could happen and then when it does — you don't know how unprepared you are until it happens."
Dugan thanked the community for the outpouring of "incredible" support the department and Officer Madsen's family have received.
He said it was important for the community to be able to attend the funeral and mourn with the department.
Following the funeral, dozens of people spent the afternoon Tuesday paying tribute to a man they’ve never met, but who made the ultimate sacrifice for our community.
Many lined the streets of Lutz to thank fallen Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen for stepping up when it mattered most.
Peter Chianchiano was one of them. He spent hours perched on his motorcycle, his American flag billowing in the breeze along North Dale Mabry Highway outside of Idlewild Baptist Church, where Tuesday’s funeral took place.
Chianchiano has never missed a local law enforcement procession. “They’re always risking their lives to keep our society safe and that’s something we need to respect,” he said.
There have been three local law enforcement funerals since January honoring three Tampa Bay heroes who chose to protect us even when it meant losing their own lives.
“It’s the ultimate sacrifice. Protecting our community,” Deborah Brannon, who also lined the procession route, added.
More than a dozen jeep owners lined North Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz. Marisa Colina organized for she and her friends to take part. None of them have never met Officer Jesse Madsen, but they tell ABC Action News that they feel connected to him after hearing investigators say how he bravely veered his patrol car in front of a wrong way, drunk driver to protect others.
“He put his life on the line for us,” Colina said.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, nationwide, 70 officers and deputies have died in the line of duty since January. That’s well ahead of last year’s numbers. Of those, 38 died from COVID-19, 12 from gunfire, 5 from vehicular assault (which includes all three Tampa Bay losses), 4 struck by vehicles, 3 died in automobile crashes, 2 were killed in assaults, 2 died from heart attacks, 1 was killed in a motorcycle crash, 1 was stabbed, 1 was killed from a duty related illness and one died from cancer related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“It’s really sad and we just wanted to be out here to say we have your back,” Brannon said.
Madsen, who was also a Marine Corp and Army Veteran, is the 32nd Tampa Police Officer to be killed on duty.
“I really do hope it’s the last one. They come to protect us, and I don’t know how I can, but I’d like to protect them too,” Colina added.