PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The mother of fallen Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend says the public can honor her son by pledging to not text while driving.

Officer Clayton Townsend

Toni Townsend (upper left) says her son was destined to be a public servant.

“There’s truly no word in any human language that is describing the pain that we’re going through,” Toni Townsend said Thursday, less than 48 hours after her son was hit and killed by a man admitted to investigators that he was texting in the moments leading up to the crash.

She says her son was destined to become a public servant.

[RELATED: Remembering fallen Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend]

“I remember as a little boy we would be in the car and he would see a fire truck, and he would say, ‘Let’s go see! I want to see what’s going on,’” Townsend recalled. “He thoroughly enjoyed his job, and he was good at it and he would tell stories.”

[WATCH: Law enforcement honors officer killed on Loop 101]

Officer Townsend was conducting a traffic stop on Loop 101 near McDowell Road Tuesday night when a driver was allegedly seen crossing two lanes and crashing into the young officer. That driver, later identified as Jerry Sanstead, was allegedly texting at the time.

[READ MORE: Driver who hit, killed Salt River officer while allegedly texting posts bond]

“There’s no text that is so important that it can take a father away from their wife or a dad away from their son,” Townsend said.

She says Clayton loved riding motorcycles, loved his job, but above all, he loved being a father. She explained that it was not clear if having a child was in the cards for her son after he beat cancer.

When Clayton’s wife Deanna gave birth to a baby boy, the family believed the child was truly a miracle.

Brixton is now 10 months old.

[SLIDESHOW: The Townsend family] 

“The kind of father he showed up as absolutely blew me away,” Peter Johnson, Clayton’s father-in-law, said. “There was a standing joke that we had a bromance because he would text me and make plans.”

Johnson says losing Clayton has left a giant hole in the family. When it comes to the accused driver, Johnson says he wants the punishment to fit the crime.

“What’s justice? What can be done?” Johnson asked. “It won’t bring Clayton back, but maybe it’ll deter somebody down the road.”

[APP USERS: Click here to take poll]

[RELATED: Ducey supporting statewide texting and driving ban]

[RELATED: Texting and driving: Should Arizona ban it?]

Sanstead has no previous record and, like Clayton Townsend, is a husband and father.

Police arrested Sanstead was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and endangerment. He posted bail and was released from jail Thursday night.

More than 35.4 million people have taken the AT&T pledge "to drive distraction free" at

USAA is also part of "It Can Wait" program. It has more than 460,000 pledges.

How you can help the Townsend family

Townsend GoFundMe

Officer Clayton Townsend's family set up a GoFundMe account to help the wife and baby he left behind.

If you would like to help the Townsend family, there are several options, including a GoFundMe account created by Johnson. 

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.

Finally, 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.

[APP USERS: Click here for infographic]


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




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(2) comments


Sadly, you're not going to change peoples' texting behavior no matter how many officers are killed or how many laws are written. It's a trait of a damaged society comprised of defective human beings and we're only creating more of them - no law can change that. RIP Officer Townsend. Thank you for your heroic sacrifice.


Amazing. As of 7:33 AM there were 26 MORONS who voted no in the poll.

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