Virginia police cite a staffing error in “pet hunting” deaths in California

Virginia State Police is now blaming “human error” in the agency’s hiring of cop Austin Lee Edwards, who killed the grandparents and mother of a 15-year-old California girl he was “dating” on the Internet.

“Human error resulted in an incomplete query in the database during Edwards’ hiring process,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a news release Wednesday.

The statement amounts to an admission that the agency should have known of a 2016 incident, first reported by The Times on Tuesday, in which Edwards was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation after he threatened to kill him and his father. According to a resident of Abingdon, Virginia, a police report obtained by The Times through a public records request, Edwards was taken into custody after cutting his hand and emergency medical technicians had to call police to help restrain him.

An EMT, escorted by police, took Edwards to a local hospital, where he was taken into custody under an emergency detention order. Later the same day, a judge approved a temporary detention order and Edwards was transferred to a local psychiatric facility.

Edwards’ father told police he did not know why his son self-harmed, but said it may have been related to problems with his girlfriend at the time, according to the police report.

In a statement to The Times, Geller said the Virginia State Police would not have hired any officer candidates that it knows have been taken into custody under an emergency custodial and temporary detention order.

Geller declined to say whether the state’s background check process would be revealing Either demand.

Prospective soldiers are required to disclose their dealings with law enforcement even if they are not arrested. But Geller said Edwards never disclosed the 2016 incident.

The Abingdon Police report, which is a public record, gave details of the violent 2016 incident and referred to both the emergency custody order and the temporary detention order. The Virginia State Police did not say whether the police report should appear during Edwards’ background check.

Geller declined to comment on the specific circumstances surrounding Edwards’ detention and custodial orders, saying the department was barred by law from discussing the classified records, despite those records being made public by a Washington County judge on Tuesday in response to a motion by The Times. .

Riverside police said Edwards, 28, portrayed himself as a 17-year-old while communicating with the girl online. In November, he drove cross country to her home in Riverside and killed her family before setting the house on fire and leaving with the girl.

San Bernardino County officials initially said Edwards was killed in a shootout with police after officers stopped his car. But the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said last week that Edwards died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The teenage girl was healthy.

Geller said the department believes the outage is an isolated fall and is taking steps to “ensure that the error does not repeat in the future.” It also said that Edwards returned all of his state-owned equipment, including his service weapons, on his last day of work.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, where Edwards worked briefly after leaving the Virginia State Police, declined to comment.

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