‘Catfish’ cop used his father as a reference to get job as deputy

Austin Lee Edwards, the cop who “catfished” a 15-year-old Riverside lady and killed her grandparents and mom earlier than taking his personal life, used his personal father as considered one of three character references on his software for a job as a sheriff’s deputy.

Edwards signed on with the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace in rural Virginia weeks after resigning from a nine-month stint with the Virginia State Police. He killed the household in Riverside, Calif., 9 days after starting work in Washington County.

Edwards used his father, a detailed good friend and his Virginia State Police discipline coaching officer as references when making use of to the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace, in accordance with his employment software, which The Instances obtained by a public data request.

Edwards’ discipline coaching supervisor, whose identify doesn’t seem on the reference, wrote that Edwards had been “very happy” in his job with the Virginia State Police.

“[Edwards] talks to me constantly about the people he has helped throughout his day, and he generally loves what he does,” the coaching supervisor wrote. Edwards’ one grievance was being too removed from his household, the supervisor added.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace stated that it had checked with Virginia State Police earlier than hiring Edwards and that “no employers disclosed any troubles, reprimands, or internal investigations pertaining to Edwards.”

In an interview, Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis declined to specify how his division vetted Edwards. Andis stated his workplace ran Edwards’ identify by regulation enforcement databases, however declined to specify which of them.

The Instances beforehand reported that Edwards had a documented historical past of psychological well being struggles and was detained for a psychiatric analysis in 2016 after threatening to kill himself and his father and experiencing relationship troubles together with his girlfriend.

Andis advised The Instances that Edwards didn’t disclose his 2016 psychological well being incident to the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace. The 2016 incident and Edwards’ subsequent detention are referenced in an Abingdon, Va., police report that specialists say ought to have turned up in lots of commonplace background checks.

Data reviewed by The Instances confirmed that Edwards advised Virginia State Police he had voluntarily checked in to a psychological well being facility. The company employed him anyway.

Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, beforehand stated that “human error” resulted in an incomplete database question throughout Edwards’ hiring course of” and that the company discovered no “indicators of concern” throughout his background examine.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has requested the state’s inspector common to analyze the Virginia State Police’s hiring of Edwards.

Edwards’ quick tenure with the Virginia State Police and his psychological well being historical past ought to have raised purple flags for the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace, in accordance with felony justice and regulation enforcement specialists.

Art Acevedo, the interim police chief for the Aurora, Colo., Police Division and a nationally acknowledged policing skilled, stated Edwards’ nine-month tenure with the state police ought to have prompted additional questioning earlier than he was employed in Washington County.

“I’d have to ask a lot of questions about why he’s moving so quickly,” he stated. “That’s pretty unusual for somebody to go through an academy, and all of a sudden, turn around and leave.”

Acevedo stated that though regulation enforcement companies set their very own requirements and protocols, most departments can be unlikely to rent Edwards after such a short work historical past until he enrolled in their very own police academy.

“It’s next-to-nothing in experience and not enough of a significant work history in terms of a police officer to assess whether they’d be hired by another agency,” he added. “You have to be in the field two to five years without going through the academy again.”

Edwards stated on his software to Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace that he had additionally utilized to the Police Division in Richlands, Va.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace might need assumed the Virginia State Police had adequately probed Edwards’ background, stated William Pelfrey, a professor of felony justice at Virginia Commonwealth College’s Wilder Faculty of Authorities.

“[But] Washington County didn’t do their due diligence in their background check; it looks like they assumed Virginia State Police did everything correctly,” Pelfrey stated. “It’s rare that someone spends less than a year in a law enforcement agency. Leaving VSP after nine months, that’s a red flag, and hiring someone who spent such a short time with one agency suggests there needs to be some kind of background investigation.”

Someday after beginning work as a deputy, Edwards served as a bailiff for a homicide trial on the Washington County Courthouse in Abingdon, in accordance with courtroom data and pictures obtained by The Instances. Lower than per week later, he was on the street to California, the place he killed the lady’s grandparents and mom and set fireplace to her dwelling, in accordance with Riverside police.

Edwards died of a self-inflicted gunshot from his service weapon after deputies tried to intercept him in San Bernardino County, in accordance with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Division. The lady was bodily unhurt.