Texting while driving kills.
The family of Salt River tribal police Officer Clayton Townsend knows that all too well. Townsend was killed Tuesday night when he was struck by a car while conducting a routine traffic stop.
Jerry Sanstead, 40, who was driving the car that struck Townsend, has told police he was texting at the time of the tragedy, according to Azfamily.com. Charges against him include vehicular manslaughter.
#BREAKING: Authorities release mugshot of 40-year-old Jerry Sanstead, who’s accused of hitting and killing Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend with his vehicle while he was texting and driving last night on the Loop 101. https://t.co/MRDoORvF1Q pic.twitter.com/Nz09W9IdvM
— FOX 10 Phoenix (@FOX10Phoenix) January 9, 2019
Dana Townsend, the officer’s aunt, said the tragedy led the family to make a vow to one another, according to the Arizona Republic.
“Our family promised each other we would always turn our phones off when we drive. If anyone can learn anything from this terrible nightmare, it’s to not text and drive,” she said.
Townsend left his wife, Deanna, and Brixton, their 10-month-old boy. A GoFundMe page was established to help the family. As of Saturday, more than 900 people had donated more than $54,000. The page has a $100,000 goal.
This is Officer Clayton Townsend #307. He was killed by a driver texting and driving. His life mattered. Especially to these two beautiful souls. Now his son will never know his father. #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/bfNro0s4aG
— Deputy N. Henderson (@nhendo89) January 12, 2019
On Friday, the community came out to offer Townsend’s family their support at a community prayer vigil.
“The outpouring of compassion, care and love from the community and citizens of Arizona has been overwhelming. It was such a blessing to see so many people here today to support both the police department and the Townsend family,” said Salt River Police Chief Karl Auerbach.
“The fact that there were well over 500 people here today on a Friday evening to show the Townsend family that they were supported by their community is very moving,” he said.
The community’s support has been vital to the grieving family.
“It means the world to us. It’s what allowed us to put one foot in front of the other and get through the day,” said Toni Townsend, the officer’s mother.
Lt. Anthony Sandoval of the Salt River Police Department said Townsend was “the kind of person one would want to come to their house in a time of need.”
“He was very passionate about what he did. He was a very proud father, Christian, a cancer survivor, and he treated everyone with respect. To summarize, he was just simply a good man,” Sandoval said.
He said that the department appreciates the public’s support as well.
“This support from the community means so much to everyone who works in the law. From the officers to the dispatcher who took the call,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval also noted that texting while driving tragedies are on the rise.
“You’re impaired while you’re texting and driving because you don’t have control of that vehicle,” he said.
Arizona might be ready to do something about it, Azfamily.com reported.
— 12 News (@12News) January 12, 2019
House Speaker-elect Rusty Bowers, Senate President-elect Karen Fann and Gov. Doug Ducey voiced support for a ban on texting while driving. Arizona is one of the few states without a statewide ban in place.
“When you’re that involved in a text that you can cross two lanes of traffic and kill somebody, I know he didn’t mean to, but we gotta do something about this,” Bowers said.
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