Austin Lee Edwards, 28, was killed by officers with San Bernardino County Sheriff's department after opening fire on them Sunday, reports NBC News. Edwards, a police officer in Virginia, had killed the mother and grandparents of a teen he catfished online, say authorities, then tried to flee with the youngster.
Officers were initially called to the La Sierra South neighborhood in Riverside, California, on Friday just after 11 a.m. to check on the welfare of a girl who appeared distressed while getting into a Red Kia Soul with a man, the Riverside Police Department said in a news release. While officers were responding, police began to receive calls about a structural fire just a few houses away from where the welfare call was reported, they said. The Riverside Fire Department arrived at the residence to find a fire on the first floor. When they made entry they discovered three adult victims lying on the ground, police said.
With witness descriptions and such a sore-thumb vehicle, he didn't get far: Kelso, a ghost town, where he opened fire after deputies caught up with him. The teen was unharmed and placed with protective services.
The victims were Mark Winek, 69, his wife Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38. police said.
Detectives determined Edwards had met the female teenager through the common form of online deception known as "catfishing," where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are. It is believed Edwards had developed an online relationship with the teen and obtained her personal information. He travelled from Virginia to Riverside where he parked his vehicle in a neighbor's driveway and walked to the teen's home. At some point, he murdered the teen's grandfather, grandmother, and mother before walking back to his vehicle with the teen and leaving. Detectives learned Edwards had worked for the Virginia State Police until recently employed at the Washington County Sheriff's Office in the state of Virginia