‘Catfishing’ cop disclosed he was handled at psychological well being facility

Austin Lee Edwards, the now-deceased cop who “catfished” a 15-year-old Riverside lady and killed her grandparents and mom final month, disclosed throughout his software to grow to be a Virginia state trooper that he had voluntarily checked himself right into a psychological well being facility a number of years earlier, in line with information reviewed by the Los Angeles Occasions.

The Virginia State Police employed him anyway.

Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, mentioned final month that there weren’t “any indicators of concern” that surfaced throughout Edwards’ “extensive” hiring course of. However the information reviewed by The Occasions present the company had not less than some indication of Edwards’ psychological well being struggles.

Edwards’ disclosure ought to have triggered additional investigation earlier than he was employed, mentioned William Pelfrey, a professor of felony justice at Virginia Commonwealth College’s Wilder Faculty of Authorities.

It’s unclear if Virginia State Police requested any follow-up questions as soon as Edwards disclosed his previous psychological well being difficulties. Geller mentioned in a earlier assertion that “human error resulted in an incomplete database query during Edwards’ hiring process.”

Geller didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark Tuesday.

The Occasions reported final week that Edwards was detained for psychiatric analysis in February 2016 after chopping his hand and threatening to kill his father. In accordance with an Abingdon, Va., police report obtained by The Occasions by means of a public information request, Edwards was taken into custody after emergency medical technicians known as police to assist restrain him.

EMTs, accompanied by police, took Edwards to a neighborhood hospital, the place he was detained beneath an emergency custody order. Later the identical day, a choose accredited a brief detention order and Edwards was transferred to a neighborhood psychiatric facility.

The brand new information present that, whereas making use of to grow to be a state trooper, Edwards informed his background investigator in a pre-test interview that “he had voluntarily checked himself into a mental health facility in 2016.”

The Occasions in a Dec. 6 e mail requested Geller if Edwards had disclosed the 2016 incident. She mentioned he had not.

Geller mentioned the state company wouldn’t have employed any officer candidate whom it knew had been detained beneath an emergency custody order or a brief detention order.

Geller additionally beforehand declined a public information request despatched by The Occasions for Edwards’ background test and psychological analysis, stating that it was exempt from the general public information legislation as a result of they’re a part of Edwards’ personnel file, which is exempt from obligatory disclosure, she mentioned.

Pelfrey, the felony justice skilled, mentioned that relying on the character of the incident, a legislation enforcement company ought to search further particulars when a police officer applicant discloses that they voluntarily sought psychological well being therapy, significantly if the incident concerned violence or suicidal ideation.

“Because law enforcement is empowered to use violence when they deem it necessary, force may be required to take a suspect into custody,” Pelfrey mentioned. “So you want somebody who has really good, objective judgment in when to use a force with a suspect.”

“If someone has a history of violence against themself or others, then their objectivity may be compromised,” Pelfrey added. “It doesn’t disqualify them, but it does warrant further investigation as part of the background process.”

In accordance with the information reviewed by The Occasions, Edwards informed the company in an interview previous to his polygraph check that he had voluntarily checked right into a psychological well being facility. The polygraph examination was administered Feb. 9, 2021, in Lebanon, Va.

The information displaying that Edwards disclosed a lot of his private historical past have been shared with The Occasions by Jeff Pike, chief govt of investigation firm Full Surveillance and Investigative Providers. Pike used to work in legislation enforcement in Virginia for practically 20 years and mentioned he shared the information to make clear the decrease hiring requirements for legislation enforcement in Virginia.

“The official narrative was not consistent with the facts,” Pike mentioned.

Two individuals with deep data of the Virginia State Police’s inside programs and protocols, who have been granted anonymity as a result of they worry retaliation for chatting with the press, verified the information’ authenticity.

Edwards additionally disclosed previous to the polygraph check that he had earlier site visitors infractions for following too carefully in his car and had beforehand been in a crash. The Occasions obtained information of each site visitors infractions, which occurred in Virginia’s Washington County. Edwards additionally informed the company he had “mistakenly” eaten marijuana brownies about two years previous to becoming a member of the drive. He additionally mentioned that he “quit” his job at Walmart in July 2020 “without notice,” in line with the information.

Edwards admitted that he had three excellent payments at two native hospitals “from 2016 through 2018,” in line with the document.

In the course of the polygraph, Edwards mentioned he hadn’t falsified any info on his software and that he hadn’t dedicated any severe intercourse acts that led to an arrest. Edwards additionally mentioned that he had by no means dedicated any severe crime or hid any unlawful drug exercise.

Pelfrey, the felony justice professor, mentioned that Virginia State Police ought to have uncovered details about Edwards’ detention and custody orders as a result of the knowledge was publicly accessible.

“A good background investigation should’ve found this,” he mentioned.

Edwards, 28, give up the Virginia State Police in late October and joined the sheriff’s workplace in Washington County as a deputy in mid-November. Police mentioned he catfished the Riverside lady by portraying himself as a 17-year-old on-line. Final month, he killed her grandparents and mom at their Riverside dwelling, earlier than setting fireplace to the residence and driving off with the lady.

Edwards died of a self-inflicted gunshot from his service weapon after deputies tried to intercept him in San Bernardino County and he shot at a legislation enforcement car, in line with a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Division. The teenage lady was discovered bodily unhurt.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace beforehand mentioned that they had contacted Virginia State Police throughout Edwards’ hiring course of and that “no employers disclosed any troubles, reprimands, or internal investigations pertaining to Edwards.”

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

Occasions employees author Grace Toohey contributed to this report.