Virginia probes hiring of trooper who killed teen’s family

Dec 19, 2022, 4:03 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2022, 6:06 am
FILE - Dozens of candles sit placed on the sidewalk along with bouquets of flowers and stuffed anim...

              FILE - This photo provided by the Riverside Police Department shows Austin Lee Edwards, the suspect in a triple homicide in Southern California who died in a shootout with police on Nov. 25, 2022. The Virginia Office of the State Inspector General is investigating the state police hiring of Edwards, who drove across the country, kidnapped a 15-year-old California girl and killed her mother and grandparents. (Riverside Police Department via AP, File)
              FILE - Dozens of candles sit placed on the sidewalk along with bouquets of flowers and stuffed animals outside a charred home in Riverside, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2022. The Virginia Office of the State Inspector General is investigating the state police hiring of a man who drove across the country, kidnapped a 15-year-old California girl and killed her mother and grandparents. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — After a former state trooper from Virginia drove across the country, kidnapped a 15-year-old California girl, killed three members of her family, then shot himself, Virginia State Police and the sheriff’s office he had recently started working for said they found no warning signs during background checks before he was hired.

But in the weeks since Austin Lee Edwards went on a rampage in Riverside, California, it’s become clear Virginia State police missed red flags about Edwards’ mental health that were in plain sight before they hired him in 2021.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has called for a “full investigation” by the state inspector general’s office.

“I believe that there was human error here,” Youngkin said last week in response to a reporter’s question about whether state police should have done more to investigate Edwards’ background before hiring him.

“Our job is to not let this happen again,” Youngkin said.

Edwards was hired by state police and entered the police academy in July 2021. He graduated as a trooper in January and worked for only nine months before resigning in October. Edwards was hired as a deputy sheriff in Washington County, Virginia, on Nov. 16, just nine days before the killings in California.

Authorities in California have said Edwards posed online as a 17-year-old boy while communicating with the girl, a form of deception known as “catfishing.” He asked her to send nude photos of herself and she stopped communicating with him.

On Nov. 25, Edwards killed the girl’s mother and grandparents, then set fire to their home in Riverside, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Edwards died by suicide during a shootout with San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies the same day. The girl was rescued. Family members and police said the girl is now in counseling for trauma.

After repeatedly saying state police found no areas of concern in Edwards’ background, state police spokesperson Corinne Geller said Dec. 7 that a recently completed review found “human error” resulted in an incomplete database query during the hiring process.

That admission came in response to news reports that Edwards had been involuntarily held at a psychiatric facility after he threatened to kill his father and himself in 2016, when he was 21.

A report written by police in Abingdon, Virginia, near the Tennessee border, said Edwards’ father restrained him after he found his son with a self-inflicted injury to his hand. The incident was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“Austin made several statements in the presence of Officers that he wanted to die, that he would try to kill himself the instant he was free from restraints, and that he would kill his father,” police wrote in the report, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

An emergency custody order was issued, followed by a temporary detention order, which allowed police to take him to a psychiatric facility.

The scope of Virginia Inspector General Michael Westfall’s investigation was not immediately clear. His office released a statement Friday saying it had received a request to “review a recent Virginia State Police matter,” but a spokesperson did not respond to a phone message and email seeking details on the parameters of the investigation.

Youngkin’s office also declined to discuss specifics. Spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement that Youngkin “has full confidence that they will follow the evidence, wherever it may lead.”

The inspector general’s office focuses on investigating complaints about fraud, waste and abuse in the executive branch of state government. It also conducts investigations and performance audits of state agencies.

“The IG has fairly wide-ranging investigatory powers that are defined by statute, but the statute is fuzzy enough so that the IG might be able to investigate general issues that the governor asks the IG to investigate,” said Henry Chambers, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

Geller said state police believe the error made during the hiring process for Edwards was “an isolated incident,” and said “steps are currently underway to ensure the error is not repeated going forward.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Amazon DTW1 fulfillment center is shown in Romulus, Mich., April 1, 2020. Amazon reports financ...
Associated Press

Amazon beats Q4 revenue estimates, but profits slump

Amazon on Thursday reported worse-than-expected profits, but its revenue beat expectations boosted by sales in North America businesses and the cloud-computing unit AWS.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Washington’s low-income tax credit available for first time

 Up to $1,200 is now available for thousands of low-income working Washington residents, thanks to a 2008 law that has finally been funded.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

California weighs making flag football a girls’ school sport

California officials are considering a plan to make flag football a girls’ high school sport amid soaring popularity of the game and a push to get more female athletes on the field. The federated council of the California Interscholastic Federation — the statewide body that governs high school athletics — is expected to vote Friday […]
1 day ago
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivers her State of the State address on the opening day o...
Associated Press

New Mexico legislators may block local abortion ordinances

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A standoff over abortion in politically conservative regions of New Mexico is looming as Democratic state legislators present a bill that would prohibit local governments from interfering with women’s access to reproductive health care. The initiative from state House Democrats responds to abortion restrictions recently adopted in two counties and […]
1 day ago
This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows emperor tamarin monkeys Bella and Finn at the zoo on We...
Associated Press

Police: Man arrested in taking of monkeys from Dallas Zoo

DALLAS (AP) — A 24-year-old man has been arrested in the case of the two monkeys taken from the Dallas Zoo after he was spotted near the animal exhibits at an aquarium in the city, police said Friday. Davion Irvin was arrested Thursday and was charged with six counts of animal cruelty, Dallas police said. […]
1 day ago
FILE- In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo the logo for Alphabet appears on a screen at the Nasdaq Mar...
Associated Press

Big tech roils markets after shaky quarterly performances

Wall Street has its eyes on big tech after some of the biggest companies in the world posted lackluster quarterly financial performances. That included Apple Inc. The company posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years after pandemic-driven restrictions on its China factories curtailed sales of the latest iPhone during the holiday season. […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Virginia probes hiring of trooper who killed teen’s family