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.
“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.