‘Catfishing’ Virginia cop used service weapon to kill himself

The Virginia sheriff’s deputy who killed three family members of a Riverside teenager he allegedly “cared for” used his service weapon to fatally shoot himself at the end of a chase with police, authorities said Friday.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, a Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy, had “baited” the 15-year-old girl by impersonating someone else to start an exploitative relationship with her online, investigators said.

Last month Edwards made the overland trip from Virginia and arrived at the Riverside home where he killed Mark Winek, 69; his wife, Sharie Winek, 65; and her daughter Brooke Winek, 38, on November 25 before setting fire to the home and leaving with Brooke Winek’s 15-year-old daughter.

Hours after fleeing the scene, Edwards’ vehicle was spotted nearly 200 miles away in a remote part of San Bernardino County.

A SWAT team attempted to stop the vehicle, but Edwards led police in a chase during which he reportedly shot the SWAT vehicle, hitting it multiple times.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department originally said the pursuit ended when Edwards was shot by deputies after he swerved off the road and got out of the vehicle. The girl was not physically injured.

However, last week sheriff’s officers said Edward’s cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Detectives determined that the weapon used was an Edwards department-issued semi-automatic service pistol,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department told The Times in an email on Friday.

At the time of the incident, Edwards had been employed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for less than two weeks. He had previously worked for the Virginia State Police for a brief stint before resigning on October 28.

How long Edwards and the girl have been in contact is still unclear.

The deaths of the three people at the Riverside home are still under investigation.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-09/catfishing-virginia-deputy-service-weapon-self-inflicted-gunshot-wound ‘Catfishing’ Virginia cop used service weapon to kill himself

Alley Einstein

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