Former state trooper who killed teen’s family was less than two weeks into new police job
The former Virginia state trooper who died in a shootout with California police after killing three people and abducting a teen last week had been on the job with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for less than two weeks when everything went down.
Austin Lee Edwards was hired by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 16, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office on Monday.
Edwards, 28, had been a member of the Virginia State Police for nine months before resigning from his trooper post on Oct. 28.
No reason has been given for his decision to resign from the State Police.
“Past employers and the Virginia State Police were contacted during the hiring processing; however, no employers disclosed any troubles, reprimands, or internal investigations pertaining to Edwards,” the Washington County Sheriff’s Office press release reported.
Edwards was set to be assigned to the agency’s patrol division, according to the release.
Nine days into his new job, Edwards was in Riverside, Calif., to meet in person a teen that he’d begun a relationship with online.
According to Riverside Police, Edwards parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway and walked to the home, where he murdered the teen’s grandfather, 69-year-old Mark Winek, her grandmother, 65-year-old Sharie Winek, and her mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, before walking back to his vehicle with the teen, who lived at her grandparents’ home with her mother.
Police were dispatched to the scene after receiving a call about a young female who appeared distressed while getting into a vehicle with a man, and the fire department was also summoned at the report of a structure fire.
The Riverside Fire Department arrived first and reported a working fire on the first floor of the residence. They initiated a fire attack, made entry, then discovered three adult victims laying on the ground in the front entry way.
The bodies were pulled outside, where it was determined they were victims of an apparent homicide.
The exact cause and manner of their deaths are still pending.
The cause of the house fire continues to be under investigation, although it appears at this point to have been intentionally ignited.
Information was relayed to law enforcement agencies regarding the triple homicide and Edwards’ vehicle description while detectives sought warrants for his arrest and attempted to determine his whereabouts.
Several hours later, he was discovered driving with the teen through San Bernardino County, when he was located by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in the unincorporated area of Kelso.
As a SWAT team intercepted Edward’s vehicle, Edwards fled and led deputies on a pursuit, firing at deputies as he fled. The volley of gunfire struck the SWAT vehicle numerous times.
Edwards lost control of his vehicle, and the pursuit ended when he drove off the road. The female victim exited the vehicle and was rescued by deputies.
Edwards exited the vehicle and pointed a gun at the sheriff’s helicopter, and deputies fired at Edwards. Upon contact, Edwards was unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene.
“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. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said.
The sheriff’s office is currently assisting the Riverside Police Department in California with this investigation, according to the agency’s press release.