Authorities claimed Friday that the Virginia sheriff’s deputy who killed three family members of a Riverside teenager he was alleged “grooming” used his service pistol to fatally shoot himself at the end of a chase with law officials.
According to authorities, Austin Lee Edwards, 28, a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, “catfished” the 15-year-old girl by posing as someone else to create an exploitative relationship with her online.
Last month, Edwards drove from Virginia to Riverside, where he killed Mark Winek, 69, his wife, Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38, before setting fire to the house and fleeing with Brooke Winek’s 15-year-old daughter.
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Edwards’ truck was discovered over 200 miles away in a remote area of San Bernardino County hours after he fled the scene.
A SWAT squad attempted to halt the vehicle, but Edwards led authorities on a chase, during which he allegedly fired at the SWAT vehicle multiple times.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department first stated that the pursuit stopped when deputies shot Edwards after he swerved off the road and exited the car. The girl was uninjured physically.
However, sheriff’s officials announced that Edwards died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound this week.
In an email to The Times on Friday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said, “Detectives found the weapons used was Edwards’ department-issued semi-automatic service handgun.”
Edwards had been with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for less than two weeks at the time of the incident. He previously worked for the Virginia State Police for a short time before retiring on October 28.
It’s unknown how long Edwards and the girl had been communicating.
The three deaths in the Riverside residence are still being investigated.