A former Virginia police officer suspected of murdering the family of a teenage girl in Riverside, California, after falsely identifying himself online has been killed in a shooting while trying to flee from authorities.
According to CNN, the former police officer has been identified as 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards of North Chesterfield, Virginia. Investigators said they believe Edwards met the teenager through “catfishing,” a form of online deception in which someone pretends to be a different person.
CNN reported that Riverside Police officers were called to check on a young woman who appeared upset while in the car of a man driving a red sedan.
While the officers were responding to the call, 911 dispatchers began receiving calls about a fire in the same neighborhood, just a few houses away from the welfare watch’s origin.
Firefighters discovered three adult victims lying in front of the front entrance of the burning home. When they bring them outside, it is revealed that they were the victims of a murder.
CNN has learned that an initial Riverside Police investigation concluded that the young woman described in the initial call was a teenage girl living at the scene of the fire and murders.
According to police, Edwards developed an online relationship with the teen and obtained her personal information. He then drove from Virginia to Riverside, where he parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway and walked to the teen’s home. Authorities believe Edwards killed the teen’s grandparents and mother before returning to his car with the young woman and leaving the scene.
Several hours after the bodies were found, Edwards was seen driving with the teen in San Bernardino County.
According to the City of Riverside statement, Edwards allegedly exchanged gunfire with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officers who attempted to arrest him, fatally shot them, and was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Police told CNN the teen was unharmed and was later taken into custody by the Riverside County Department of Public Human Services.