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Report gives new details about crash that killed Valley police officer

Officer Clayton Townsend (Salt River Police Department Photo)

PHOENIX — A report released by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on Wednesday gives new details about the January crash that killed a Valley police officer.

According to the 254-page report, Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend attempted to contact a driver through a passenger side window during a Jan. 8 traffic stop on Loop 101, but he could not see the driver due to “Tupperware” on the seat.

Townsend then moved to the driver’s side window, where he stood for 12 seconds before he was struck by Jerry Sanstead, the report stated.

According to the report, Sanstead drifted across three lanes of traffic and “failed to observe the police vehicle for approximately 17 to 28 seconds” before the collision.

Sanstead admitted to officers that he had been using his phone to send voice messages and read texts from his wife before the crash, police said.

According to the report, he also told officers that he did not see the police lights and was “in the process of a cleanse” at the time, which may have caused him to pass out.

Witnesses told police that they saw Sanstead in his car holding a phone and not paying attention to the road.

The report also stated that during the booking process, Sanstead suffered “an unknown medical condition and fell and struck his head.”

He was then transported to a medical center where a nurse said he had suffered an injury to the left side of his tongue from him biting it, an injury consistent with seizures, according to the report.

Sanstead was booked into jail on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and endangerment but has yet to be formally charged by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

“It is a large case to review and will take longer than our average 30 days to complete the review,” a spokeswoman for the attorney’s office told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The incident fueled efforts to pass a statewide ban on distracted driving, which was enacted in April and will take effect in January 2021.

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