‘Catfishing’ cop who killed family was detained in 2016 after threats

The Virginia police officer who “fished” a 15-year-old California girl online and killed three of her family members was jailed for psychiatric evaluation in 2016 after he threatened to kill himself and his father and had relationship problems with his then-girlfriend to one Police report obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The 2016 incident, which was previously unreported, raises new questions about how Austin Lee Edwards became a law enforcement officer and offers new details about his life. Authorities in Virginia said they were shocked by California’s shooting sprees and were unaware of any red flags in Edwards’ background.

Edwards, 28, a former Virginia police officer who had just been hired as a deputy for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, presented himself as a 17-year-old when he communicated with the girl online, according to Riverside police. Last month he drove across the country to her house in Riverside, where he killed her mother and grandparents the day after Thanksgiving before setting fire to the house and driving the girl away.

Police later stopped Edwards’ car in San Bernardino County, where authorities initially said he was killed in a shootout with police. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced last week that Edwards did indeed die from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The girl was found alive and unharmed.

The former law enforcement officer was in trouble years before the November incident.

When Edwards was 21, police arrived at his home in Abingdon, Virginia, around 3 a.m., a few hours after the 2016 Super Bowl. When they arrived, they found that Edwards had injured his left hand, according to the report obtained by The Times through a public file request.

His father, Christopher Roy Edwards, told police he was woken up by the sound of Edwards making noise in the bathroom. He said he called for his son, who had locked himself in the bathroom. Christopher Edwards then used a screwdriver to pry open the door and saw Edwards with a cut on his hand. Christopher Edwards told police he didn’t know what injured his son with, but that knives and a small hatchet were nearby.

When officers arrived, they found that Edwards was being held by his father, according to the report. Christopher Edwards could not be reached for comment.

Paramedics told police that Edwards was found by his father in the bathroom with a self-inflicted injury to his left hand, and that police were called because Edwards “resisted medical attention and attempted to put himself under his father’s control.” revoke”.

The house had a “large presence of blood inside” and Edwards continued to defy authorities, refusing to allow paramedics to treat his injury and continuing to try to escape from his father, according to the report. Edwards was handcuffed and placed on a stretcher to be transported to Johnston Memorial Hospital. Edwards had an “apparently severe cut on his left hand” and told police officers that once he was freed from the handcuffs he would try to kill himself and that he would also kill his father.

Christopher Edwards told authorities that the night before he watched the Super Bowl with his son and they drank two beers each.

Christopher Edwards then alerted authorities for an ambulance, while his son went into his bedroom and sat on the bed, holding a pocket or jackknife and opening and closing it repeatedly, according to the report. When Christopher Edwards told his son that an ambulance was on the way, Edwards tried to leave the apartment but was overpowered by his father in the kitchen.

Police said Christopher Edwards had bite marks on both arms from his son but refused medical treatment. He told authorities he didn’t know why his son self-harmed, but said it could have to do with issues in his relationship with his girlfriend.

Based on the suicide and murder testimonies Edwards had given to police, an emergency warrant was issued under which Edwards was taken into custody and taken to a hospital where medics assessed whether he qualified for a preliminary detention order to report. A TDO was then issued, allowing law enforcement to take a person into custody and transport them for mental health evaluation or treatment if the person is unwilling to do so.

Emergency warrants are issued for a variety of reasons, including when a person could harm themselves or someone else. The order may be issued voluntarily or involuntarily and may remain in place until an interim detention order is issued.

On July 6, 2021, Edwards entered the Virginia State Police Academy. He graduated on January 21 and was assigned to Henrico County, which is part of the Richmond Division. Edwards resigned from the Virginia State Police on October 28 and began as a patrol officer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on November 16. Edwards had started orientation at his agency and had been assigned to the Patrol Division.

Edwards never disclosed the 2016 incident to Virginia State Police, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement. Geller declined to comment on the emergency detention order and the temporary detention order, saying the department is barred by law from discussing confidential records. Geller said the agency was conducting a review of Edwards’ hiring process.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Officials from the two agencies said none of Edwards’ previous employers had disclosed any issues about him. Geller, the state police spokesman, said the agency conducted a “thorough background check” as part of its hiring process that would have included a fingerprint-based criminal background check as well as psychological testing, although it’s not immediately clear whether that would have required the emergency warrant or the provisional arrest warrant uncovered. Geller also said the agency performed a pre-employment polygraph, although it’s unclear what that test might have revealed.

Geller said there had been “no signs of concern” during Edward’s tenure and that no internal or criminal investigations had been launched against him.

Erin B. Logan reported from Abingdon, Virginia. Summer Lin and Grace Toohey reported from Los Angeles.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-06/austin-lee-edwards-catfishing-cop-threats-kill-dad ‘Catfishing’ cop who killed family was detained in 2016 after threats

Alley Einstein

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