TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A wrong-way driver was likely intoxicated and traveling at more than 100 mph when he slammed into a Tampa police officer’s SUV, killing them both, police said.
The Tampa Police Department on Thursday announced preliminary findings of their investigation into the crash that killed Officer Jesse Madsen on Interstate 275.
Police said they were awaiting the results of toxicology tests, but the driver, Joshua Daniel Montague, 25, was likely intoxicated at the time of the crash. According to detectives, Montague had just moved to Tampa from Golden, Colorado, and had only been in the city for 12 hours. He was staying at a hotel, and his car was a rental.
“There was beer bottles found at his hotel room and we have reason to believe he was at a local bar and was out drinking somewhere,” Chief Brian Dugan said at a press conference Thursday.
Police said Montague got onto the interstate from Busch Boulevard and started heading southbound in the northbound lanes. Data from his vehicle shows he was traveling at more than 100 mph.
Police confirmed eyewitness accounts that Madsen veered into his path to stop him. Madsen had been traveling at about 65 mph, data shows.
“These findings simply show what anyone who knew Officer Jesse Madsen personally would tell you: He was a true American hero,” said Chief Brian Dugan. “By deliberately swerving his patrol car into the other driver’s path of travel, we believe Officer Madsen was attempting to stop this wrong-way driver from putting anyone else’s life in danger by laying down his own.”
Dugan said Madsen will be posthumously awarded the Police Purple Shield, which goes to officers who die or are injured in the line of duty. Madsen will also receive the Medal of Honor, the highest medal for employees who distinguish themselves “by an act of heroism at the cost of imminent personal danger,” Dugan said. His family will receive the Gold Cross Award, which is given to families of fallen officers.
“We will never forget the bravery that Officer Madsen showed that night or the sacrifice he made to protect members of our community. While we are till 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,” Dugan said.
A candlelight vigil will take place at the Tampa Police Department headquarters on 411 N. Franklin Street at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Dugan, Mayor Jane Castor and other city leaders will be in attendance along with members of Madsen’s family.
The officer’s funeral will take place next Tuesday, March 16 at Idlewild Baptist Church, 18333 Exciting Idlewild Boulevard in Lutz.