‘Catfishing’ cop who killed household 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 relations was detained for psychiatric analysis in 2016 after threatening to kill himself and his father and experiencing relationship troubles together with his then-girlfriend, in line with a police report obtained by the Los Angeles Occasions.

The 2016 incident, which has not been beforehand reported, raises new questions on how Austin Lee Edwards grew to become a regulation enforcement officer and provides new particulars about his life. Authorities in Virginia have stated that they have been shocked by the California rampage and that they knew of no crimson 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 line with Riverside police. Final month, he drove throughout the nation to her dwelling 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’ automotive in San Bernardino County, the place authorities initially stated 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 Occasions obtained by 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 together 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 toilet. 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 minimize 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 line with the report. As soon as Christopher Edwards informed his son that an ambulance was on the way in which, Edwards tried to go away the condo, 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 aid and attempts to escape his father’s control,” requested police help, in line with the report.

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

After arriving on the scene, one of many officers commanded Edwards to point out his fingers, after which Edwards “began screaming and threatening everyone,” in line with 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 stated that he may subdue him. After getting Edwards to the bottom, the officer and a member of the EMT crew have been in a position to handcuff Edwards and strap him to a stretcher.

Edwards was then transported to Johnston Memorial Hospital. Edwards had an “apparent serious cut to his left hand” and stated 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 stated that Christopher Edwards had chew marks on each his arms from his son however declined medical remedy. He informed authorities that he didn’t know why his son harmed himself however stated it may must do with issues in his relationship together 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 an area hospital, the place medical professionals assessed whether or not he met the necessities for a short lived detention order, in line with 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 choose launched Edward’s TDO on Tuesday in response to a movement filed by The Occasions.

The report 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 likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, [Edwards] will, in the near future” severely hurt himself or endure hurt due to his “lack of capacity to protect himself from harm” or present himself with primary wants. The order stated Edwards was then in want of hospitalization or remedy and was both unwilling or unable to hunt it.

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

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

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

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

Officers from the 2 companies stated none of Edwards’ prior employers had disclosed points about him. Geller, the state police spokesperson, stated the company carried out a “thorough background check” as a part of its hiring course of, which might have included a fingerprint-based prison 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 momentary detention order. Geller additionally stated the company carried out a preemployment polygraph, although it’s unclear what that take a look at might need discovered.

Geller stated there weren’t “any indicators of concern” throughout Edward’s tenure and no inside or prison investigations have been opened towards him.

Edwards’ regulation enforcement profession was transient. 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 individuals have been lifeless.

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