Virginia police officer who catfished teen and killed family had threatened to kill his father and himself in 2016

A Virginia police officer who allegedly catfished a California teenager before killing three of her family members had threatened to kill himself and his father in 2016.

Austin Lee Edwards died outside of Los Angeles after driving cross country to Riverside, California, where he killed the 15-year-old girl’s mother and grandparents, according to authorities.

The 28-year-old, who authorities portrayed himself as 17 online, then set fire to the house and drove off with the girl, who was uninjured in the harrowing experience.

Mark Winek, 69, Sharie Winek, 65, and sister Brooke Winek, 39, were found dead at the scene by first responders.

Edwards was later stopped in his car in San Bernardino County and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Officials had initially said that he was killed during a shootout with officers.

A police report obtained by The Los Angeles Times stated that on 7 February 2016 Edwards and his father, Christopher Edwards, watched the Super Bowl and drank two beers each.

Mr Edwards then later woke up to find his son had locked himself in the bathroom and after he used a screwdriver to get in, found he had cut himself on the hand, it stated.

He then called an ambulance for his son, who tried to leave their apartment before being subdued by his father. When ambulance staff arrived they found Mr Edwards restraining his son and requested police assistance with the call, the report states.

Edwards continued to try and escape and when police arrived they found a “large presence of blood inside” the property. When officers demanded to see his hands, Edwards reportedly “began screaming and threatening everyone”, according to the report.

Police considered using a Taser on Edwards, but his father insisted he could control his son, and he was eventually handcuffed and strapped to a stretcher.

Edwards was then transported to Johnstone Memorial Hospital with a serious cut to his hand and told police officers that as soon as the cuffs were removed he would try to kill himself and his father.

Mr Edwards, who suffered bite injuries during the incident, told officers he did not know why his son had tried to harm himself but said it could have to do with relationship issues the younger man had with his girlfriend.

Court records released by a judge in Washington County, Virginia, show that a temporary detention order was issued on 8 February 2016 because there was a “substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness” Edwards would seriously harm himself.

He was then transferred to a psychiatric facility in Bristol, Virginia, the order stated.

Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller, told the newspaper in a statement that Edwards never disclosed the 2016 incident to the agency, which is now carrying out a review into its hiring of Edwards.

Edwards graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy on 21 January 2022, resigned from the agency on 28 October and began as a patrol deputy with the state’s Washington County Sheriff’s Office on 16 November.