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‘Catfishing’ Virginia Cop Used Service Weapon To Kill Himself

The Virginia sheriff’s deputy who killed three family members of a Riverside teenager he allegedly ‘groomed’ used his service weapon to shoot himself at the end of a chase with law enforcement order, authorities said on Friday.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, had ‘catfished’ the 15-year-old girl, posing as someone else to enter into an exploitative relationship with her online, investigators said.

Edwards drove cross-country from Virginia last month and arrived at the Riverside home, where he killed 69-year-old Mark Winek; his wife, Sharie Winek, 65; and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38, on November 25 before setting the house on fire and leaving with Brooke Winek’s 15-year-old daughter.

Hours after fleeing the scene, Edwards’ vehicle was spotted nearly 200 miles away in a remote part of San Bernardino County.

A SWAT team attempted to stop the vehicle, but Edwards led police on a chase during which he allegedly fired at the SWAT vehicle, hitting it multiple times.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department originally said the pursuit ended when Edwards was shot by deputies after driving off the road and exiting the vehicle. The girl was physically unharmed.

Last week, however, sheriff’s officials said Edwards’ cause of death was determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Detectives have determined that the weapon used was an Edwards Department-issued semi-automatic duty pistol,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in an email to The Times on Friday.

At the time of the incident, Edwards had worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for less than 2 weeks. He had previously served a short stint with the Virginia State Police before resigning on October 28.

It’s still unclear how long Edwards and the girl had been in contact.

The deaths of the three people at the Riverside home are still under investigation.

Los Angeles Times

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