Austin Lee Edwards of North Chesterfield, Virginia. (Courtesy of Riverside Police Department)
[The Epoch Times, November 18, 2023](Reported by Epoch Times reporter Wen Hui) A California family is suing a Virginia police department because a police officer hired by the department sexually extorted and kidnapped a 15-year-old girl at gunpoint. , killed his mother and grandparents and set fire to their home.
According to FOX News, on November 25, 2022, hours after the violence occurred in Riverside, about 50 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards was involved in a confrontation with law enforcement. He committed suicide during a shootout. Kidnapped girl rescued.
Just nine days before the murder, Edwards was hired as the sheriff of Washington County, Virginia, despite a 2016 court order prohibiting him from purchasing, possessing or transporting firearms; the ban stemmed from Edwards’ self-harm with a knife and threats to kill his father. He was put into “psychiatric detention”.
The girl’s aunt, Mychelle Blandin, filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court for the Central District of California on Thursday (16th) against the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. The lawsuit says the department was negligent in hiring Edwards and she seeks restitution through a jury trial, including an appeal to the killer’s estate. As the guardian of the girl’s minor sister, she also requested financial compensation on behalf of the little girl.
Authorities said Edwards contacted the girl online, posing as a 17-year-old boy, conducting a “catfishing scam” and asking her to send nude photos.
The girl stopped responding to his messages, prompting Edwards to travel across the country to her home in California. The lawsuit states that he showed his law enforcement badge and weapon to the girl’s grandparents, Mark and Sharon Winek, and said he was a detective and needed to interview the family.
The lawsuit says Edwards slit the throat of the girl’s mother, Brooke Winek, and placed bags over her grandparents’ heads, causing them to suffocate. Blanding said the killings “devastated our home.”
“I am filing this lawsuit because my family wants to know how Edwards was hired as a police officer and obtained a firearm when he was expressly ordered by the courts not to possess a firearm. He used his position as a peace officer to gain access,” she said in the statement. My parents’ home, where I killed them and my sister. I want the Washington County Sheriff’s Department to be held accountable for providing a badge and a gun to a mentally disturbed individual.”
Edwards was hired by the Virginia State Police in July 2021 and resigned nine months later; last year, he was hired as a constable with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked the state inspector general to conduct a “comprehensive investigation,” which revealed that state police background investigators did not access the correct database at the time.
The Virginia State Police was not named as a defendant, but the agency also made changes to hiring procedures, background checks and officer training policies. ◇
Editor in charge: Jialian