Symbol of strength: Massive lion memorializes officer who died saving others

When Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen steered his police car into the path of a wrong-way driver last March, he made a split-second decision that cost him his life, but likely saved the lives of other drivers on I-275.

"He was a hero who saved others," said Madsen’s 12-year-old daughter, Kenley, who wears her father’s dog tags around her neck. 

Officer Jesse Madsen died in the line of duty

Madsen was a veteran police officer and a combat Marine. 

‘It was the worst night of my life’: TPD remembers fallen Officer Jesse Madsen 1 year after death

Tuesday, his family and fellow officers watched as a new law enforcement memorial was unveiled at District One headquarters. 

It’s a metal sculpture made from parts of Madsen’s mangled patrol car along with guns that were taken off the street. The sculpture depicts a majestic lion, six feet tall, ready to pounce. 

Rendering of memorial sculpture to Madsen

"A lion was very much like how Jesse was, fierce and protective, but still family oriented," said Tampa Police Major Eric Defelice, a co-worker and close friend. "So, it really embodied what Jesse meant to us."

The sculpture was created by Tampa metal artist Dominique Martinez, owner of Rustic Steel. He says he and his team spent 700 hours creating the sculpture, using parts from the officer’s mangled patrol car. 

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Officer Madsen memorial sculpture in Tampa

"It really hit us emotionally because we have pieces of the vehicle, and you keep thinking of what transpired," said Martinez. 

Mayor Jane Castor, who is also Tampa’s former police chief, says Madsen saved lives through selfless heroism

"It’s an amazing piece of art dedicated to Jesse Madsen, and really all the officers that dedicate their lives serving our community," Castor said.