Colleagues of Austin Lee Edwards, the Virginia police officer who killed the grandparents and mother of a 15-year-old Riverside girl he “fished” online, removed a sheriff’s truck and black garbage bag the night before the official search of Edward’s property, according to an eyewitness and video reviewed by The Times.
Two deputies from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the law enforcement agency that employed Edwards immediately before his death, arrived at the Cape Cod-style white house with blacked-out windows late on November 25, the day of the murders.
Riverside Police, who are leading the murder investigation, were unaware of the actions of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. “We are not aware of any action taken at his home prior to the November 26 search warrant,” Riverside Police spokesman Ryan Railsback said. “We are not aware of any other searches.”
The eyewitness said officers arrived at the home in the evening hours of November 25 — the same day the Riverside murders occurred — and did not see the officers go in, but saw the deputies out the back part of the house with a rubbish bag before leaving the property in a vehicle.
The 42-second video shows two people standing next to the house, one holding what looks like a flashlight in one hand and the black garbage bag in the other. Both then leave the house. The eyewitness said the two deputies drove away separately, one in a squad car and the other in a Washington County Sheriff’s Office truck that had been parked in Edwards’ driveway for days.
Two former Virginia law enforcement officers who are familiar with the matter and who reviewed the video confirmed that they recognized both officers in the video as deputies from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The Times has granted anonymity to the eyewitness and former officials, fearing retaliation for speaking to the press.
Edwards, 28, started on November 16 as a patrol officer in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Riverside Police said Edwards presented himself as a 17-year-old while communicating online with the 15-year-old. In November, he drove across the country to her home in Riverside, killing three of her family members before setting the house on fire and leaving with the girl.
San Bernardino County officials initially said Edwards was killed in a shootout with police after officers pulled over his car. But the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said last week Edwards died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The teenager was not physically injured.
Edward’s tenure as a police officer was short. He entered the Virginia State Police Academy on July 6, 2021 and was assigned to Henrico County within the Richmond Division upon graduation on January 21 of that year. He resigned from the Virginia State Police on October 28. A Virginia State Police spokesman told the Times Wednesday that “human error” in the agency’s background check led to Edward’s hiring.
Neither the Washington County Sheriff’s Office nor the Smyth County Commonwealth Attorney immediately responded to a request for comment.
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-09/coworkers-catfishing-cop-employer-search-home Coworkers of cop who killed 3 in California removed items from his home prior to official search