Virginia police cite hiring error in California ‘catfishing’ deaths

Virginia State Police are now blaming “human error” for the agency’s hiring of Austin Lee Edwards, the cop who killed the grandparents and mother of a 15-year-old California girl he “fished” online.

“Human error resulted in an incomplete database lookup during Edwards’ hiring process,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a news release Wednesday.

The statement comes down to an admission that the agency should have known about a 2016 incident, first reported by The Times on Tuesday, in which Edwards was arrested for psychiatric evaluation after threatening to kill his father and kill yourself. According to a police report from Abingdon, Virginia obtained by The Times through a public file request, Edwards was taken into custody after he cut his hand and paramedics had to call police to restrain him.

Paramedics, escorted by police, took Edwards to a local hospital, where he was being held under an emergency detention order. Later that same day, a judge approved a preliminary arrest warrant and Edwards was transferred to a local psychiatric facility.

Edward’s father told police he didn’t know why his son self-harmed, but said it may have to do with issues with his then-girlfriend, according to the police report.

In a statement to The Times, Geller said the Virginia State Police had not hired an officer candidate who they knew had been incarcerated on an emergency warrant and a preliminary warrant.

Geller declined to say whether the state’s background check would have revealed that either order.

Potential soldiers must disclose interactions with law enforcement, even if they have not been arrested. But Edwards never disclosed the 2016 incident, Geller said.

The Abingdon police report, which is a public record, detailed the violent 2016 incident, citing both the emergency warrant and the provisional warrant. The Virginia State Police did not say whether the police report should have surfaced during their background check on Edwards.

Geller declined to comment on the specific circumstances surrounding Edward’s custody and arrest warrants, saying the department is barred by law from discussing confidential records, though those records were released Tuesday by a Washington County judge in response to an application submitted by The Times .

Riverside Police said Edwards, 28, posed as a 17-year-old while communicating with the girl online. In November, he drove across the country to her home in Riverside and killed her family 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 unharmed.

Geller said the department believes the bug is isolated and is taking steps to “ensure the bug doesn’t repeat itself in the future.” She also said that Edwards returned all of his government equipment, including his service weapons, on his last day of work.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, where Edwards worked shortly after retiring from the Virginia State Police, declined to comment.

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-07/virginia-police-human-error-austin-lee-edwards-catfishing-cop Virginia police cite hiring error in California ‘catfishing’ deaths

Alley Einstein

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