Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has asked the state’s inspector general to investigate the Virginia State Police’s hiring of Austin Lee Edwards, the now-dead trooper who killed three relatives of a Riverside girl in 15 years she “fished” online.
Macaulay Porter, a spokesman for Youngkin, confirmed Thursday that the inspector general will “undertake an independent and thorough investigation of all allegations” surrounding Edwards’ hiring. Porter declined to specify which agencies are being investigated.
The state inspector general’s office does not have the authority to investigate local police agencies, according to Kate Hourin, a spokeswoman for the office. Hourin declined to comment further.
Edwards was a Virginia State Police trooper for nine months before resigning in October. 28. He worked as a deputy in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office before fatally shooting himself with his service weapon in a Southern California desert last month.
Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis and Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller declined to comment.
Porter, Youngkin’s spokesman, declined to say when Youngkin had ordered the investigation.
Public records first reported by The Times earlier this month show Edwards was taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation in 2016 after cutting his hand and threatening to kill himself and his father. Emergency medical technicians called the police to help restrain Edwards.
Edwards was taken into custody under an emergency custody order and transported to a local hospital under police escort. A judge approved a temporary detention order for Edwards, and he was committed to a psychiatric facility later that day.
Records reviewed by the Times earlier this week show that Edwards told Virginia State Police that he had voluntarily checked himself into a mental health facility in 2016. A Virginia criminal law expert told the Times that the revelation should have triggered further investigation by Virginia State Police. … before Edwards was hired.
Geller, the state police spokesman, had previously said the agency found no “indicators of concern” during its “extensive” investigation of Edwards. He told The Times that state police would not hire troopers who had been detained under emergency custody orders or temporary detention orders, and attributed Edward’s hiring to “human error” in the vetting process background of the agency.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which employed Edwards immediately before his death, had previously said that “no employer disclosed any issues, reprimands or internal investigations related to Edwards.”
Virginia television news station CBS 6 News first reported Wednesday that Youngkin had requested an investigation and said the governor believes the hiring involved human error. “Once the investigation is complete, there will be full transparency,” Youngkin told reporters Wednesday.
In 2021, five years after his 2016 psychiatric arrest, Edwards entered the Virginia State Police Academy. He graduated in January. 21 this year and became a state trooper. He joined the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy in November.
At some point during that time, Edwards phished a 15-year-old girl online by pretending to be 17, Riverside police said. In late November, he drove to the girl’s Riverside home and killed her grandparents and mother before setting fire to the house and fleeing with the girl.
Deputies tried to intercept Edwards about 200 miles away in unincorporated San Bernardino County. He fired at a police vehicle before turning his service weapon on himself, according to a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The teenager was found unharmed.