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Tampa Bay area copes with three law enforcement deaths in three months

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 07:45:13-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen is the third Tampa Bay area law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty since January.

Tuesday morning just before 1 a.m., the Tampa Police Department says Officer Madsen was struck by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 275.

Investigators believe Madsen intentionally veered his patrol car into the wrong-way driver’s vehicle in an effort to protect other drivers on the interstate. The impact killed both Madsen and the wrong-way driver, Joshua Montague of Golden, Colorado.

RELATED: Fallen TPD officer veered into path of wrong-way driver to protect others, chief says

It comes as law enforcement continues to mourn two other losses.

In February, Pinellas County Deputy Michael Magli was killed while trying to stop a drunk driver from crashing into other cars on East Lake Road in Tarpon Springs.

In January, Hillsborough County Corporal Brian LaVigne died when a suspect rammed into his cruiser. He was one shift away from retirement.

Danny Alvarez, with the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, says there’s a general sense of shock and dismay in the Tampa Bay law enforcement community.

“There is a fatigue that is here in the sense of tragedy. It hits so hard,” he said. “It’s just something that is extremely sad and there’s just not a good answer as to why.”

The deaths are taking a toll on local law enforcement and the mental health of officers and deputies.

In Pinellas County, the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association is sending out thousands of t-shirts to raise money for Deputy Magli’s family, not thinking they’d have another loss this soon.

“Not that you ever get over a loss, but you can’t even start to put it behind you and into your memory bank without having another incident where another officer is lost,” explained Jonathan Vazquez, President of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association.

Nationwide, 68 law enforcement officers have died so far this year. That’s an average of one per day. That heartbreak is already impacting recruitment.

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“It’s a really tough time to be a cop,” Alvarez said.

“It’s something that now people who have that drive to want to become a law enforcement officer are taking a second guess. Could they do something else that’s a lot safer?” Vazquez added.

It is also beginning to impact retention, according to Vazquez.

“I hear a lot of spouses saying I really don’t want you doing this anymore,” he explained.

Yet, many tell ABC Action News they’re still proud to be among those who run toward danger if it means protecting all of us.

“As a police officer, that is the highest honor,” Alvarez said. “These officers and deputies went out the way they lived their lives, as true heroes.”