The police officer accused of killing three people and kidnapping a girl in Riverside on Friday passed a background check and psychological testing before being hired, according to officials in Virginia.
Austin Lee Edwards, 28, is accused of traveling from Virginia to Riverside, abducting a 15-year-old girl he had met online and killing her mother and grandparents.
According to police, Edwards “catfished” the girl using a fake identity, then kidnapped her in the 11200 block of Price Court, killed 69-year-old Mark Winek, his 65-year-old wife Sharie Winek and their daughter, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, and set fire to the teen’s home.
He later was killed in a gunfight with deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The girl was unharmed.
Before Friday, however, he had been an officer of the Virginia State Police, then been hired by Washington County Sheriff’s Office, according to a report in the Press-Enterprise newspaper of the Inland Empire.
His time in law enforcement lasted less than a year, but during his application process, training and time on the job, he passed physical, psychological and written testing, as well as a lie-detector test, according to Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller.
“During Edwards’ short tenure with the department, he never exhibited any behaviors to trigger any internal administrative or criminal investigations,” Geller said.
Edwards resigned from the department on Oct. 28, and on Nov. 16, he was hired by the Sheriff’s Office. He was going through the orientation process, as no issues arose during his background check, Sheriff Blake Andis said in a news release.
“It is shocking and sad to the entire law enforcement community that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer,” Andis said in the release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime.”
Officials are continuing to investigate, including a return to the home on Tuesday, aerial footage from Sky5 showed.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help with the funeral expenses of the deceased and provide financial support to the family’s two surviving teenage daughters.