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


The Virginia police officer who “catfished” a 15-year-old California woman on-line and killed three of her members of the family was detained for psychiatric analysis in 2016 after threatening to kill himself and his father and experiencing relationship troubles along with his then-girlfriend, in response to a police report obtained by the Los Angeles Instances.

The 2016 incident, which has not been beforehand reported, raises new questions on how Austin Lee Edwards turned a regulation enforcement officer and affords new particulars about his life. Authorities in Virginia have mentioned that they have been shocked by the California rampage and that they knew of no purple flags in Edwards’ background.

The 28-year-old Edwards, a former Virginia state cop who joined the sheriff’s workplace in Washington County, Va., as a deputy in mid-November, portrayed himself as a 17-year-old whereas speaking with the woman on-line, in response to Riverside police. Final month, he drove throughout the nation to her residence in Riverside, the place he killed her mom and grandparents on the day after Thanksgiving earlier than setting hearth to the home and driving away with the woman.

Police later stopped Edwards’ automobile in San Bernardino County, the place authorities initially mentioned he was killed in a shootout with police. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Division introduced final week that Edwards truly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The woman was discovered alive and unhurt.

The previous regulation enforcement officer had troubles years earlier than the November incident.

Austin Lee Edwards.

(Riverside Police Dept.)

The 2016 police report, which The Instances obtained via a public information request, particulars a harrowing night time within the Edwards family.

On the night of Feb. 7, 2016, Austin Lee Edwards watched the Tremendous Bowl along with his father, Christopher Roy Edwards. They every drank two beers, the elder Edwards later informed police.

Later that night time, Christopher Edwards awoke to the sound of his 21-year-old son making noise within the rest room. Christopher Edwards referred to as out to his son, who had locked the door. Christopher Edwards then used a screwdriver to get the toilet door open and noticed Edwards with a reduce on his hand. Christopher Edwards later informed police he didn’t know what his son had used to hurt himself however that knives and a small hatchet had been close by.

Christopher Edwards referred to as for an ambulance whereas his son went to his bed room and sat on the mattress, holding a pocket or folding knife in his fingers and repeatedly opening and shutting it, in response to the report. As soon as Christopher Edwards informed his son that an ambulance was on the best way, Edwards tried to depart the condominium, however his father subdued him within the kitchen, the elder Edwards informed police later.

Christopher Edwards couldn’t be reached for remark.

Emergency medical technicians have been first to reply to the scene, the place they found Edwards was being held down by his father, they informed police later. The EMTs, disturbed by Edwards’ “resistance to medical support and makes an attempt to flee his father’s management,” requested police help, in response to the report.

When police arrived on the scene round 3:30 a.m. Feb. 8, 2016, they discovered that the house had a “massive presence of blood inside.” Edwards continued to withstand authorities, refusing to let EMTs deal with his damage and persevering with to attempt to escape his father, in response to the report.

After arriving on the scene, one of many officers commanded Edwards to indicate his fingers, after which Edwards “started screaming and threatening everybody,” in response to the officer’s account within the report. The officer then took out his Taser, and Edwards started yelling at him to Tase him. Christopher Edwards pleaded for the officer to not Tase his son and mentioned that he might subdue him. After getting Edwards to the bottom, the officer and a member of the EMT crew have been capable of handcuff Edwards and strap him to a stretcher.

Edwards was then transported to Johnston Memorial Hospital. Edwards had an “obvious severe reduce to his left hand” and mentioned in entrance of cops that he was going to attempt to kill himself the second he was free from handcuffs and that he would additionally kill his father.

Police mentioned that Christopher Edwards had chew marks on each his arms from his son however declined medical therapy. He informed authorities that he didn’t know why his son harmed himself however mentioned it might need to do with issues in his relationship along with his girlfriend.

Due to the suicidal and homicidal statements that Edwards had expressed to police, an emergency custody order was issued, below which Edwards was taken into custody and transported to a neighborhood hospital, the place medical professionals assessed whether or not he met the necessities for a brief detention order, in response to the report. A TDO, which permits regulation enforcement to take an individual into custody and transport them for psychological well being analysis or care if the individual is unwilling to take action, was then issued.

A Washington County decide launched Edward’s TDO on Tuesday in response to a movement filed by The Instances.

The file signifies that the order was issued round 10 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 8, 2016, as a result of there was a “substantial probability that, because of psychological sickness, [Edwards] will, within the close to future” significantly hurt himself or endure hurt due to his “lack of capability to guard himself from hurt” or present himself with primary wants. The order mentioned Edwards was then in want of hospitalization or therapy and was both unwilling or unable to hunt it.

Edwards was that day transported to Ridgeview Pavilion, a psychiatric facility in Bristol, Va., in response to the order.

Emergency custody orders are issued for a wide range of causes, together with when an individual could hurt themselves or another person. The order may be issued voluntarily or involuntarily and may stay in impact till a brief detention order is issued.

Edwards by no means disclosed the 2016 incident to the Virginia State Police, Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the company, mentioned in an announcement. Geller declined to touch upon the emergency custody order and the non permanent detention order, saying the division was barred by regulation from discussing confidential information. Geller mentioned the company is conducting a evaluation of Edwards’ hiring course of.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Officers from the 2 businesses mentioned none of Edwards’ prior employers had disclosed points about him. Geller, the state police spokesperson, mentioned the company carried out a “thorough background examine” as a part of its hiring course of, which might have included a fingerprint-based legal historical past examination in addition to psychological testing, although it’s not instantly clear that effort would have turned up the emergency custody order or the non permanent detention order. Geller additionally mentioned the company carried out a preemployment polygraph, although it’s unclear what that take a look at might need discovered.

Geller mentioned there weren’t “any indicators of concern” throughout Edward’s tenure and no inner or legal investigations have been opened in opposition to him.

Edwards’ regulation enforcement profession was temporary. He entered the Virginia State Police Academy on July 6, 2021. After he graduated on Jan. 21 of this 12 months, he was assigned to Henrico County, which is inside the Richmond Division. Edwards resigned from the Virginia State Police on Oct. 28 and began as a patrol deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace on Nov. 16. He started orientation and was assigned to the patrol division.

Lower than two weeks later, he and three different folks have been lifeless.

Instances workers writers Erin B. Logan reported from Abingdon, Va., Summer season Lin and Grace Toohey from Los Angeles.

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