Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Tue, Nov. 19

Police: Driver texting before Arizona crash that killed cop

PHOENIX — The driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a police officer on a Phoenix-area freeway was texting before the wreck and has been arrested and accused of manslaughter and other crimes, authorities said Wednesday.

Jerry Sanstead of Scottsdale, 40, told investigators that he was texting before his vehicle struck Salt River Police Department Officer Clayton Townsend as Townsend stood in the right-side emergency lane next to a vehicle he'd pulled over on the Loop 101 freeway near Scottsdale, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

A witness said the driver who struck Townsend was looking down at his phone and crossed two traffic lanes before the wreck during the Tuesday evening commute, the statement said.

Townsend was standing next to the driver's side door of the vehicle he'd stopped when Sanstead's vehicle struck the parked vehicle and Townsend, the statement said.

Sanstead was jailed on suspicion of manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and endangerment, the statement said.

It's not known whether Sanstead has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.

Officials said Townsend, was married and had a 10-month-old child. He had served five years on 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."

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