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Flags lowered for Arizona officer killed by texting driver

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered that flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday to honor the life of Salt River Police Department Officer Clayton Townsend, who died in the line of duty Tuesday night. Flags will also be lowered on the day of interment, which has not been set.

Townsend was killed when a distracted driver struck him while the officer was standing near the driver's side door of the passenger car he had stopped in the Scottsdale area around 6 p.m., officials said.

"Our 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," said Ducey. "Arizona is grateful for his service and willingness to put himself in harm's way to keep others safe. In honor of Officer Townsend's life and service, I've ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff."

From the Department of Public Safety:

At 6:02 p.m. Officer Clayton Townsend was conducting a traffic stop on a white passenger vehicle for expired registration northbound along SR 101, just south of the McDowell Road off-ramp, within the right-side emergency lane.

At 6:04 p.m., Officer Townsend was standing at the driver's side door of the vehicle he had stopped when a black passenger vehicle entered the right-side emergency lane, collided with the white passenger vehicle and then struck Officer Townsend. Officer Townsend sustained head trauma during the impact. The driver of the white passenger vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Another Salt River police officer arrived on the scene and began rendering aid to Officer Townsend. Officer Townsend was transported to Honor Health Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center and was pronounced deceased at 6:35 p.m.

The driver of the white passenger vehicle was also transported to Honor Health Scottsdale Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

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During the investigation on scene, the driver of the black passenger car told AZDPS detectives he had been texting during the time his vehicle entered the right-side emergency lane and struck the police officer. A witness told detectives that the driver of the black passenger car was looking down at his phone just before crossing over two traffic lanes and then striking the officer.

The driver of the black passenger car, identified as 40-year-old Jerry Sanstead of Scottsdale, was arrested and booked into the Maricopa County 4th Avenue Jail for Manslaughter, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Endangerment.

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2 comments on this story

Jan 9, 2019, 9:34 pm
-0 +1

If drivers who text and cause a death were locked away forever, people might think twice about texting while driving.

Jan 9, 2019, 3:35 pm
-0 +0

Well, what can I say? Where I work, I see police officers lecturing pedestrians for stepping onto the road two feet outside the crosswalk (yes, I’m serious) or giving citations to bicyclists who don’t come to a full stop at stop signs. All the while people are maimed and killed by reckless speeders, red-light-runners and texting drivers. Distracted driving appears to be the norm, not the exception in this state.

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