Wreck claims life of veteran officer

Clinton Police Officer Joe Townsend assists a fellow officer with a couple of streakers found running naked through the streets of Clinton back in the 1970s, when such acts were popular across the country. Townsend, who was killed Tuesday night in a two-vehicle crash, was a veteran police officer who retired in 2000 from the force.

A young Officer Joe Townsend.


The life of a 30-year career veteran police officer was taken Tuesday night in a drunk driving accident on Overland Road just outside Clinton’s city limits, and the man believed responsible remains in jail under a more than quarter-million dollar bond.

According to information from the N.C. Highway Patrol, Joseph Edward Townsend, 69, of Stephen Road, Clinton, was killed when a pickup truck driven by Enrique Vazquez Vera, 37, of Governor Moore Road, crossed the center line and struck the Toyota in which Townsend and his wife were traveling.

Vera has been charged with felony death by motor vehicle and driving while impaired. He was placed in the Sampson County Detention Center where he remained late Wednesday under a $255,000 bond.

The wreck occurred around 10:45 p.m. Tuesday on State Road 1229 (Overland Road) as Vera was traveling north. Townsend’s vehicle, reports show, was traveling south.

Townsend’s wife was also injured in the accident, but no report on her condition was available at press time.

Vera was treated at Sampson Regional Medical Center for his injuries and later taken into custody by Highway Patrol officials. There was no additional information on his condition readily available.

Townsend remembered

Word spread quickly Tuesday night about the accident that took the 69-year-old Townsend’s life, bringing sadness and fond recollections of the man that many remembered as both a civic-minded officer and a devout supporter of all things related to the Clinton High Dark Horse football team.

“Joe was an extremely friendly and personable individual,” recalled Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley, who worked with Townsend while Tilley was an SBI agent and Townsend a police officer. “I’ve known him since I first came to Clinton.

“He had a great deal of love for this community, especially Clinton High School football,” the chief recalled.

Townsend, Tilley said, was a good officer. “We worked together on several cases, and Joe was always on top of things. He had a tremendous rapport with people in this community. He retired from the department before I came here as chief, but he is remembered fondly by those who knew him.”

Townsend retired as a captain in August 2000 after serving 30 years with the Police Department.

“It’s tragic that we had to lose him in this way,” the police chief asserted.