MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – Two of the officers who were first on scene the day that Max Townsend drove through a team of Moore High School runners, killing three of them and injuring four, spoke with KFOR days after Townsend received a guilty verdict.
“Seeing Rachel there, knowing it very well could have been my own, that has been my biggest struggle,” Sgt. James White said.
For White and Sgt. David Grant with Moore Police Department, Feb. 3, 2020, will forever be seared into their memories.
“You could tell from dispatcher’s voice that it was different. You can tell when you’ve been doing this for a while that something ain’t right,” Grant said.
Moore High School students Yuridia Martinez, Rachel Freeman and Kolby Crum were killed that day, less than a mile away from the Police Department, when Max Townsend plowed through the school’s cross country team with his pickup. Four other students were hurt.
“When you pull up and you see students giving CPR to other kids on the ground, like, you don’t even know what’s going on,” Grant said.
Grant was the first officer on scene.
“Just with all of the people around, it didn’t look like a car crash. It looked like something had went off,” he said.
While the officers behind him handled the tragic path Townsend left behind at the school, Grant followed the trail of destruction around the block to find the person responsible.
Grant detained Townsend, spoke with the witnesses who ran after the truck and then performed a field sobriety test.
“I’ve had a lot of guys ask me, ‘How’d you do that?’ And my thing was, ‘I had to.’ You know, who else was getting to the other side, and me getting to that person quickly can not only save lives, but also make the case,” Grant said.
White helped reconstruct the scene as the team of investigators tried to determine why and how this happened.
“Even from working on the tornadoes that I’ve worked, to me this was the devastation. It’s just not something that you expect to see,” White said.
Both White and Grant testified during Townsend’s trial last week. The trial ended on Friday when a jury found him guilty of three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident and four counts of leaving the scene of an injury accident. The jury recommended he serve life in prison.
“It was a huge burden that was lifted. It let me know that my team and I – investigators – that we were able to bring justice for the kids,” White said.
During the trial, Townsend’s attorneys claimed Townsend choked on a Red Bull he was drinking, leaving him unconscious at the time of the crash.
However, the state pointed to his blood test that showed a blood alcohol level of .068 and THC in his system.
There was also testimony from witnesses who said they saw Townsend alert, with his hands at 10 and 2 at the time of the crash.
“I don’t work that area, but I really don’t drive by there. It’s such a weird thing now, just dealing with it,” Grant said.
It was a painful day for many, forever tainting the street where three young runners went for their final run.
A memorial now sits in that very spot.
“When they said guilty, it was like, ‘We did our jobs. We did what we were supposed to do,'” Grant said.
“I did what I was supposed to do, to make sure he never walks a day on the street again, make sure he stays behind bars where he belongs,” White said.
Townsend will be formally sentenced on August 19 at 2 p.m.