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Wrong-Way Driver Going 100 MPH Before Killing Tampa Police Officer

Officer Jesse Madsen
Tampa Police Department
Tampa Police Department
Tampa police officer Jesse Madsen, 45, was killed early on March 9, 2021, after he veered into the path of a wrong-way driver Interstate 275, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said.

Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen veered into the path of Joshua Daniel Montague, who was going the wrong way on Interstate 275 and was apparently intoxicated at the time of the crash.

The man who drove the wrong way down Interstate 275 Tuesday and killed a police officer who swerved to stop him was driving more than 100 mph.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said the man, Joshua Daniel Montague of Golden, Colo., entered I-275 southbound the wrong way from Busch Boulevard. He apparently had been drinking at a local bar and beer bottles were found in his hotel room.

Dugan said Officer Jesse Madsen swerved his car in the path of the wrong-way driver, killing both instantly.

"Officer Madsen is a true American hero," Dugan said Thursday during a news conference at police headquarters. "He deliberately moved his patrol car into the other driver's path of travel. We believe Jesse Madsen was attempting to stop this wrong-way driver from putting anyone else's life in danger, and laying down his own."

Data collected from Madsen's patrol vehicle reveals that he was traveling around 65 mph at the time when his patrol cruiser took two sharp turns, veering into Montague's path of travel, just before hitting Montague's vehicle.

Dugan called it a "complete tragedy for both families."

"I was at the scene shortly after it happened and the condition of the cars, I mean, obliterated," Dugan said. "Especially the one that Mr. Montague was driving. The front end was gone. The engine was on the side of the road.

"Officer Madsen's car was in a ditch, on its side. We couldn't get him out. I truly feel for our officers, who were first there and their sense of helplessness."

Tampa Police Chief Dugan at police headquarters
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Tampa Police Chief Dugan at police headquarters

Dugan said initial toxicology reports show Montague was intoxicated at the time of the crash. According to detectives, Montague was not visiting Tampa on spring break, but was in the process of moving to the area. Detectives said Montague, who was driving a rental car and staying at a local hotel, had been in Tampa for less than 12 hours before the fatal crash occurred.

Dugan announced on Thursday that Madsen is being posthumously awarded the Police Purple Shield, presented to officers who suffer an extreme physical injury or death in the line of duty, and the Medal of Honor, the highest medal awarded to any employee who distinguishes themselves by an act of heroism at the cost of imminent personal danger.

Also, Madsen will be recognized with an eighth Life-Saving Award for the "final selfless act" he took in the protection of others.

"We will never forget the bravery that Officer Madsen showed that night or the sacrifice he made to protect members of our community," Dugan said. "While we are still mourning as a department, our jobs must continue. We will keep fighting to make our roadways safer for anyone traveling in Tampa, and we will do it with an even greater purpose after losing one of our own in such a senseless and avoidable DUI crash."

A public candlelight vigil will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Tampa Police headquarters.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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