TAMPA, Fla. - At Crystal’s Sandwich Shop in east Tampa, there’s a hole in Crystal Colvin’s heart. It was left by the tragic death of her friend, Officer Jesse Madsen.
"I was his waitress for a long time," she said Tuesday. "When he first started coming in he was a rookie."
As years went by, she got to know him as a friend, a police officer, and a father.
"With Jesse, it was serve, protect, family. I remember one day he had to go to court so he had to take the baby with him," she laughed. "And he was like, ‘Carter sit down!’ He was 3."
Madsen was killed early Tuesday when he ran, head-on, into a wrong-way driver on I-275 in Tampa. Police Chief Brian Dugan said Madsen purposely hit the wrong-way driver to protect others.
He leaves behind a wife, two sons, and a daughter.
"It is the hardest part, to know that your dad went out there every day to work for other people and now your dad isn’t coming home," said Orlando Gudes, a Tampa City Council member and retired police officer who served with Madsen.
Gudes says Madsen had a heart for helping people.
"He worked the Robles Park area trying to make changes, make a difference in people’s lives in that community," said Gudes.
Madsen was a combat veteran with the U.S. Marines. Friends say he was a real-life hero.
"Jessie put himself in harm’s way to purposely to save a life," said Danny Alvarez, spokesperson for the Tampa Police Benevolent Association.
It wasn’t the first time. Tampa police say Madsen earned a long list of awards through his career.
"He had seven life-saving awards," continued Alvarez. "That means seven families are still here celebrating life because he risked his for them."
His friends say bravery was one of the things that set Madsen apart. Colvin told us Madsen was an Iron Man.
"I’ll bet you today if I could picture his words, he would say, ‘Let’s do this,’ a car coming at him, ‘Let’s do this. We got this,’" said Colvin. "He was willing to save anyone’s life, no matter what, at any cost."
Alvarez said the Tampa PBA will send Madsen’s family a $10,000 check and the state of Florida will send them a $50,000 check. The Tampa PBA is also raising additional funds for the family.