TAMPA — The Hillsborough River went silent Tuesday night as many gathered to honor the death of Tampa Police Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen.
Sixteen boats - one for each year Madsen served before he was killed by a wrong-way driver on March 9 - moved down the river in a somber procession. The event was in remembrance of the lives of three officers who were killed this year in Tampa Bay, including Madsen. They lit the river blue with flashing lights as they slowly trolled from the Platt Street Bridge to Armature Works just before 9 p.m.
Also honored were Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael J. Magli and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian LaVigne, according to its organizer, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Like Madsen, all three were fathers — and all three were killed in traffic crashes.
Each vessel came from a different agency, including the Sheriff’s Offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Polk counties; the police departments in Tampa, New Port Richey and Treasure Island; and the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Air Force.
Earlier Tuesday, thousands attended the funeral of Madsen in Tampa, where he was hailed as a hero. Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said the officer sacrificed himself in order to stop a wrong-way driver from killing someone else.
“Was he Superman? Batman? Tony Stark? No, he was Jesse Madsen,” Dugan said during the officer’s memorial service. “Those fictitious superheroes got nothing on him.”
Madsen, 45, had served three tours in Afghanistan with the U.S. military before taking up law enforcement. He joined the Marines in 1994 and suffered a serious injury when an improvised explosive device exploded under his Humvee. Still, he finished his tour of duty and earned awards for his service.
At the Tampa Police Department, Madsen earned eight life-saving awards as well as four excellent duty awards, one unit citation, 17 letters of appreciation, three certificates of appreciation and now, in death, the Police Purple Shield and Police Medal of Honor. He also earned one additional life-saving award for his final act.