TAMPA (WFLA) – At Thursday night’s candlelight vigil for Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen, Linda Unfried couldn’t hold back the tears.
“Why can’t we do more to keep people safe,” she told 8 On Your Side.
The former Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office employee co-founded the county’s chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the 1980s.
“It’s not getting better,” she said, “it’s getting worse and to lose three law enforcement officers, one in January, one in February and now one in March, why?”
Hundreds of people from TPD, HCSO, and the community came together around the Monument for Fallen Officers hours after Chief Dugan announced Officer Madsen sacrificed his own life by veering into the path of a suspected drunk driver.
“His name is now written in stone,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said. “And he will remain in our hearts forever.”
The department is posthumously presenting Officer Madsen with an eighth life-saving award, as well as a Police Purple Shield and Medal of Honor. They recognize his final act of heroism on I-275 around 1 a.m. Tuesday when he drove into the path of the wrong-way driver.
“It’s great that this community is recognizing what a hero he was,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister, who attended the vigil.
Officer Madsen’s wife Danyelle and his children unveiled his name on the Monument to Fallen Officers. He is the 32nd TPD officer to be killed in the line of duty.
“I think about his children,” Unfried said. “They have to be proud, they have to be hurting because their dad is not coming home.”
Chief Dugan told 8 On Your Side that telling the family that their father and husband wouldn’t be coming home is the most difficult thing he’s ever had to do.
“All I could think about is what was I gonna say, what was I gonna tell them, how was I gonna explain this when I don’t have the answers myself,” he said.
8 On Your Side learned from Sheriff Chronister about another heroic act by Officer Madsen.
During the night in late May when peaceful protests across Tampa turned violent, the sheriff said one of his deputies was struck in the head with a rock.
“There was an officer who picked him up, carried him to his patrol car, and rushed him to the hospital not knowing how bad his medical condition was,” Sheriff Chronister said. “That officer was MPO Jesse Madsen.”