SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The man accused of texting while driving moments before hitting and killing a Salt River police officer was released from jail after posting bond Thursday morning.

He made his initial court appearance Wednesday evening.

Bail for 40-year-old Jerry Sanstead was set at $100,000. It was a secured appearance bond, which means he only had to post 10 percent of that.

[WATCH: Jerry Sanstead's initial court appearance]

Sanstead is facing charges including manslaughter in connection with the Tuesday night wreck that killed Officer Clayton Townsend.

The crash happened just after 6 p.m. on the northbound side of the Loop 101 near McDowell Road.

According to the Department of Public Safety, Townsend had just pulled over a driver for expired registration.

[RELATED: Arizona's Family to host phone bank for fallen Salt River officer]

While Townsend was standing at the driver's side door of the white passenger vehicle he stopped, a black passenger vehicle entered the right-side emergency lane and collided with the white passenger vehicle and then hit the officer.

Townsend sustained head trauma in the crash and was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:35 p.m. 

The driver of the vehicle that was initially pulled over was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. 

"Officer Clayton was one of my most dedicated, loyal and committed officers on my department," said Salt River Police Department Chief Karl Auerbach. "He was truly a guardian of the people."

Sanstead stayed on the scene as required by law. 

According to DPS, Sanstead told detectives he was texting when his vehicle struck the police officer. A witness told DPS that Sanstead's vehicle crossed over two traffic lanes before hitting the officer. 

Sanstead, who has no previous record, was arrested and booked into jail for manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and endangerment. His attorney told a judge Sanstead is a licensed massage therapist and is married with children. He's due back in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 17.

While Sanstead was booked on suspicion of manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and endangerment, it will be up to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to decide what charges to file against him.

According to MCAO spokeswoman Amanda Steele that takes 48 hours for suspects who are in custody.

Because Sanstead has posted bond and been released, Steele said MCAO should review the case within 30 days of when it was submitted.

"A charging review can result in the formal filing of charges, a return of the case to law enforcement for further investigation or additional forensic analysis, or a turn down," she explained in an email response to questions from Arizona's Family.

Police say Townsend leaves behind a wife and a 10-month-old child. He had served on the police force for five years.

[SLIDESHOW: The Townsend family]

"He was known by all to be caring and compassionate," said Auerbach.

Auerbach praised Townsend's work ethic.

"Ofc. Townsend was doing what he decided to do, to be a servant of the people, to be a guardian of the people, to serve and protect, and tragically this evening, he lost his life doing his job," said Auerbach.

Gov. Doug Ducey offered his condolences in a tweet, saying flags would be at half-staff on Wednesday.

The Arizona Department of Transportation closed the northbound Loop 101 from Loop 202 Red Mountain to McKellips Road because of the crash.

The road was reopened just before 4 a.m. Wednesday morning.

How you can help

Arizona's Family has teamed up with 100 Club of Arizona, a nonprofit organization that assists first responders, to raise money for fallen Salt River Officer Clayton Townsend's family.

You can make a donation by texting the word Fallen to 243725. You will receive a link that will allow to enter the amount of your donation and your credit card information. Standard message rates apply.

Click here to text a donation from this story on your mobile device

Click here to make an online donation from any computer or device.

If you prefer to make a contribution in person, you can do so at a car wash Saturday, Jan. 12, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., in the parking lot of North Valley Christian Academy, 33655 N. 27th Dr. in Phoenix.

Gerber Injury Law and North Valley Christian Academy will be accepting donations at the event. All proceeds will got to Townsend's family.

The Salt River Police Department established a memorial fund Wednesday evening to benefit Officer Townsend's family. You can donate to the Townsend Benefit Memorial Fund through Wells Fargo Bank at Account Number: 3535835825.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.



Recommended for you

(19) comments


While my heart goes out for the officer and his family over this tragedy, demonizing this driver isn't right either.

I actually have met him and the guy is a very good person who obviously made a mistake. I am not sure prison is necessarily the right thing here or not.

However, the venom spitting here is pretty horrible. The thing I find most horrible is that a large percentage of you screaming murder probably look at your phones while driving all the time, and many of you drive drunk too. So spare us the histrionics.


Why manslaughter. Per ARS 13-1104. Second degree murder; classification

A. A person commits second degree murder if without premeditation:

1. The person intentionally causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of intentionally causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child; or

2. Knowing that the person's conduct will cause death or serious physical injury, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of knowingly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child; or

3. Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of recklessly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child.

It seems to me it is obvious that texting while driving can kill someone. So "the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person, " seems to be met. Why not 2nd degree murder instead of 3rd degree (Manslaughter). The jury can then choose to vote guilty on 2nd or 3rd. I'm sorry this happened to the guy but he needs to be punished for his actions.


Before we get inundated with the usual nonsense generated in these posts let's take a minute to acknowledge and appreciate that we lost another hero who dedicated his life to making YOUR life safer. We all need to extend our appreciation to the unseen, heroic work these officers do everyday on our behalf. RIP Officer Townsend. BACK THE BLUE.


People often put the police down, only seeing that there is "too much police violence" or some such nonsense. These guys are understaffed, overworked and are literally putting themselves in constant danger ... even at something as simple as a traffic stop. They just never know. And it is tough on their families as well because THEY are aware of the dangers and they have to live with this possibility every morning when the officer goes to work. Tough tough job.


HOPE THE TEXT WAS WORTH IT;YOU CREEP. An innocent human being lost his life, because your text, was more important than paying attention to the road.


The man made a huge mistake and texted while driving, doesn't make him a creep though... maybe an idiot


This time, texting made him a killer.


The irony is texting while driving is prohibited and ticketable offense on the SRPMIC which includes that portion of the Loop 101. He likely will be cited for that as well. However, he'll likely hire a lawyer and get most of the charges dropped so that he has to pay a fine or do community service or probation with no jail time.


You are definitely wrong about the jail time, He is going to probably serve 10 years if I had to guess


You would think so but... the article has been updated and this guy has a wife and kid also. Courts may go easy on him as he is a provider.


R.I.P. Officer Townsend. Thank you for your service sir.


Hey local P.D.'s how about leaving the traffic stops on the freeway to DPS. You know the ones that have been trained properly when and where to pull a person over for a traffic stop.


Yeah, because a careless driver who unknowingly crossed 2 lanes of traffic only to enter the emergency lane was predictable and clearly avoidable.
I swear, some people. Smh.


You're a soulless bahstahd. I can only hope that karma comes around and bites your tiny balls off. Sickening.


Don't worry "karma" came knocking one day and I punched it in the face and it ran away crying !!


Sad. Probably someone texting or on the phone.


I commented before this story was updated with the info about the driver texting. Nailed it. Until police start writing tickets for this, it will continue. I see people EVERY DAY on my commute distracted by texting. They need to deploy a force of unmarked vehicles to ticket these people.


Maybe they'll take action like when the 58 people attending a concert were shot to death in Las Vegas, and over 400 were injured by gunshots. Look what they did about bump stocks! Wow! It's always a kick when people say they're "pro-life". Some mean what they say, I'm sure, the rest are in a dream.


I am not even sure what you are trying to say. Are you suggesting that this falls on the gov't to enact a law to prevent this in the future? Not sure how that even ties into pro-life?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.