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Case against driver who killed Salt River officer dropped

June 25, 2021 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Charges have been dropped against a man who told police he was texting while driving when he fatally struck a Salt River Police Officer police officer.

The Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday it has filed a motion to dismiss a reckless manslaughter charge against 42-year-old Jerry Sanstead without prejudice.

County Attorney Allister Adel said in a statement that new evidence would make it difficult to convict Sanstead beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dismissing the case without prejudice means prosecutors can re-file charges again.

Sanstead told law enforcement he must have been texting his wife in January 2019 when his car veered across the lanes of Loop 101 and fatally hit Officer Clayton Townsend, who was conducting a traffic stop.

In November 2020, a grand jury indicted Sanstead on manslaughter after seeing evidence that indicated he hadn’t texted but was distracted by his phone.

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Adel says a crucial witness has since become “unavailable for trial,” making it impossible to prove Sanstead was distracted just before the crash. In addition, a medical expert for the defense believes a seizure might have led to the crash.

Adel says the decision was not made lightly.

Townsend, 26, was a five-year veteran of the Salt River Police Department. He is survived by a wife and 10-month-old son.