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Victim of Catfish people there is a picture of the people standing

A former Virginia police officer allegedly “catfished” a teenage girl online before traveling to Riverside, California, and killing her family, according to police.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, was accused of murdering 69-year-old Mark Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek at a home in Riverside’s La Sierra neighborhood, which had gone up in flames by the time the police arrived.

Hours after the bodies were discovered, Edwards was killed in a shootout with officers. The teenage girl, who had been inside Edward’s vehicle, was not injured.

Edwards had “catfished” the teen, police said, referring to a scheme in which a person pretends to be someone else online. Officials said Edwards formed a relationship with the girl, learned her personal information, then drove the nearly 2,500 miles from Virginia to California.

Edwards had a short law enforcement career, according to Fox 11 Los Angeles. Virginia State Police told the TV station that Edwards entered the academy in July 2021, and graduated in January 2022. He was assigned to Henrico County, which surrounds Richmond. He was with the department until last month.

“It is shocking and sad to the entire law enforcement community that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said in a social media statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime.