RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A Virginia sheriff’s deputy who police say traveled to California to kill three family members of a 15-year-old girl he tried to sexually extort online has committed suicide with a government-issued firearm, authorities said Saturday.
Austin Lee Edwards, 28, drove across the country and on November 25 killed the girl’s mother and grandparents and burned down their home in Riverside, a town about 80 kilometers east downtown Los Angeles, authorities said.
That same day, Edwards committed suicide in a shootout with San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies. The teenager was rescued.
“Our detectives have determined that the weapon used was an Edwards Department-issued semi-automatic service pistol,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Gloria Huerta said in a statement.
The Riverside Police Department, which is investigating the death of the girl’s family members, did not say how they were killed.
Edwards, a resident of North Chesterfield, Virginia, appears to have posed online as a 17-year-old boy to engage in a romantic relationship with the girl and obtain her personal information by tricking her with a fake identity, known as name of “catfishing,” police said.
Authorities said the girl stopped communicating with him after he asked her to send him nude photos of herself.
Edwards was a former Virginia state trooper and was a sheriff’s deputy in Washington County, Virginia at the time of the murders.
Both law enforcement agencies said they found no warning signs of Edwards before he was hired. But a police report from the Abingdon Police Department in Virginia shows he was arrested in 2016 for psychiatric evaluation following death threats against him and his father, years before he joined the force. order.
On Thursday – a day after the Los Angeles Times broke news of the mental health episode – Virginia State Police said a recently completed examination showed ‘human error’ led to a request incomplete in the database during the hiring process.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to calls seeking comment on the 2016 episode.