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California police kill man who allegedly murdered family of teen he met online and kidnapped

Police: Man "catfished" teen before killing family
Man "catfished" California teen before killing mom and grandparents, police say 02:06

Police killed a man in Southern California late last week after he opened fire on a SWAT team that had been dispatched to chase down his car on an eastbound freeway, authorities said. 

The man, identified as 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards, was wanted in connection with a triple homicide in the city of Riverside nearby and was considered armed and dangerous, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Investigators believe that Edwards, a local cop and former state trooper in Virginia, "catfished" and ultimately kidnapped a teenager after killing her mother, grandmother and grandfather, the Riverside Police Department said in a news release.

Edwards 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 police arrived, CBS Los Angeles reported. 

The teen was not harmed during the police pursuit of Edwards and was taken into protective custody, according to CBS Los Angeles.

Officers believe that Edwards was involved in an online catfishing scheme that targeted the teenager. They say he traveled from his home in North Chesterfield, Virginia, to California in order to pursue the girl after developing a relationship with her online and acquiring her personal information. Riverside police said Edwards was a former officer with the Virginia State Police who, more recently, worked at the Washington County Sheriff's Office in southwestern Virginia.

"This is yet another horrific reminder of the predators existing online who prey on our children," said Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez, according to CBS L.A. "If you've already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again. If not, start it now to better protect them." 

Police say they spotted Edwards driving a red Kia Soul on Highway 247 last Friday night. Because the vehicle matched a description of the car linked to the triple homicide in La Sierra, aviation units with both the sheriff's department and California Highway Patrol followed the Kia from a distance until a SWAT team was nearby, authorities said. 

Austin Edwards, 28, was killed by California police during a car chase on Friday, Nov. 25. Riverside PD

The SWAT team intercepted Edwards' car as he began traveling east on Highway 62, at which point, the suspect fled and subsequently proceeded to fire at officers, striking the SWAT vehicle multiple times, according to the sheriff's department. The car chase ended when Edwards "lost control" of his vehicle and drove off the road, the department said, adding that he was killed by officers upon stepping out of the Kia Soul and firing again in their direction. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and an autopsy will be conducted to formally determine a cause of death.

By the time Edwards was killed, the teenager had already been rescued by police, the sheriff's department said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mark Winek's name.

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