PHEONIX (KTVK/Meredith) – The mother of a fallen Arizona police officer says the public can honor her son by pledging to never text while driving.

On Tuesday, Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend was standing in an emergency lane next to a vehicle he had pulled over on the Loop 101 freeway when another car struck and killed him. Investigators said the driver of that car, Jerry Sanstead, admitted that he was texting at the time of the crash.

Clayton Townsend and family

“There’s truly no word in any human language that is describing the pain that we’re going through,” said the officer's mother, Toni Townsend. “There’s no text that is so important that it can take a father away from their wife or a dad away from their son."

A witness told authorities that Sanstead crossed two traffic lanes before the accident. He was later jailed on suspicion of manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and endangerment.

Officer Townsend leaves behind a wife, a 10-month-old son, and dozens of friends who say he was full of energy, loyal and humble. He had served five years with the Salt River Police Department, an agency of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Salt River Police Chief Karl Auerbach called Townsend caring, compassionate and "truly a guardian of the people."

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings lowered to half-staff Wednesday.

Ducey said in a statement that "prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Officer Clayton Townsend as well as to the men and women of the Salt River Police Department."

A GoFundMe page for the officer's family has raised more than $37,000 since Wednesday. 

 The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.