New information has been released regarding the fatal crash involving a Salt River Police Department officer that occurred on January 8.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), Officer Clayton Townsend stopped a vehicle on the Loop 101 around 6 p.m. that night.
While standing near that vehicle, Officer Townsend was reportedly hit by a passing car, which subsequently hit the vehicle Officer Townsend initially stopped.
According to a DPS report, the driver who struck Officer Townsend was 40-year-old Jerry Sanstead.
The report states Sanstead drove across two lanes and onto the shoulder of the highway when he hit Officer Townsend.
The report also says Sanstead was texting while driving and was distracted “for over a third of a mile without noticing the red and blue emergency lights.”
A witness told investigators they saw Sanstead drive by them with his left-hand on the steering wheel and his cell phone in his right hand.
The witness also noted Sanstead was looking down at his phone just before the crash.
The witness told officials they checked on Sanstead after the collision and saw that he had unfastened his seat belt and was allegedly looking for his phone.
Sanstead later told investigators that he was driving with his cruise control set to 65 miles per hour, and was using his ‘text to talk’ feature. However, Sanstead allegedly told officials he had to read incoming texts visually.
DPS says Sanstead was distracted for approximately 17 to 28 seconds.
Salt River Police Chief Karl Auerbach described Townsend as "one of the most dedicated, loyal, and committed officers" who left behind a wife and a 10-month-old child. He had been with the department for five years.
Sanstead was arrested for manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and endangerment.
He posted bail and was released from jail awaiting trial.