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Virginia State Police: 'Human error' in hiring process of cop turned alleged killer

A Virginia law enforcement officer was the suspect in a catfishing scam that ended with four people dead, including himself.

NORFOLK, Va. — There are new questions over whether a cop turned alleged killer should have ever been given a badge in the first place.

Austin Lee Edwards is accused of "catfishing" a California teen and killing three members of her family last month.

Now we're learning of a troubling incident involving Edwards that seemingly slipped through the cracks when he was hired by Virginia State Police (VSP) in 2021. 

RELATED | Police: Virginia law enforcement officer accused of driving to California and killing family after ‘catfishing’ teenage daughter

The incident in question happened in 2016 in Abingdon, Virginia.

According to a police report, Edwards made threats to kill himself and his father and used a knife to cut his own hand. He also tried to escape the home once his father called an ambulance.

When EMTs got there, Edwards' father was holding him down, and had bite marks along his arms.

Medics tried to help stop the bleeding, but he resisted both of them and the police officers (who came in to help the EMTs).

The report said at one point, Edwards was screaming to be tased. Police officers fought him to the ground to get handcuffs on him, and used a stretcher to take him to a psychiatric facility for more help.

No charges were filed in the case and VSP never learned of it during his background check.

The VSP background check includes written, psychological and polygraph testing.

A VSP spokesperson told 13News Now that Edwards passed all of those, and never did anything during his 15 months at the department to set off alarm bells.

But this newly uncovered police report raises questions about how law enforcement agencies vet their recruits.

RELATED | Red Flags: Did a Virginia police officer suspected in triple murder cause any prior concern?

After the murders, VSP initiated an extensive review of Edwards' hiring process, his academy performance and monthly job performance evaluations. 

"The department’s administrative review is now complete and has revealed that human error resulted in an incomplete database query during Edwards’ hiring process," a VSP statement read. "Although we believe this to be an isolated incident, steps are currently underway to ensure the error is not repeated going forward. The department is also proactively auditing existing personnel records and practices."

After Edwards left VSP in late October, he went to work as a deputy for the Washington County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Department, which is where he was employed at the time of the murders.

The sheriff's department said it contacted Edwards' past employers during the hiring process but found no "troubles, reprimands or internal investigations."

Edwards died during a police shootout in California.

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