On November 25, 2022, officers responded to a 911 call at 11:08 a.m. about a young girl who appeared to be distressed while getting into a red Kia Soul with a man.
A former police officer from Virginia, identified as Austin Lee Edwards, has been accused of catfishing a teenage girl and then killing her family in Riverside, California. Edwards was killed in a shootout with law enforcement after he allegedly killed the mother and grandparents of the 15-year-old girl he met online.
According to reports, investigators believe that Edwards posed as a teenager to engage in an online relationship with the girl before driving from Virginia to Riverside, where he abducted her, killing her family in the process. The victims were identified as Mark Winek, 69, his wife Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38.
The incident began when officers responded to a 911 call about a young girl who appeared to be distressed while getting into a red Kia Soul with a man. While officers were responding, 911 operators also began receiving calls about a structure fire just a few doors down from where the previous call had come in. Firefighters arrived at the scene first and entered the blazing residence to find three dead bodies inside.
Several hours later, Edwards was found driving with the teen by the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department in the Kelso area. A gunfight broke out between Edwards and the deputies, resulting in his death. Police said the “teen was unharmed and later placed into protective custody of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services”.
The tragic incident has shocked the community and raised questions about online safety and the dangers of catfishing. The investigation is ongoing.