Virginia State Police won’t release job records of ex-trooper who killed 3 in California
(VIRGINIA MERCURY) - Virginia State Police acknowledged “human error” caused them to miss a violent incident in the past of a former state trooper who killed three people in California last month, but the agency is refusing to release 247 pages of personnel records that could shed more light on his time as a state employee.
The Virginia Mercury filed a public records request for all documents related to State Police administrative investigations and background checks of former trooper Austin Lee Edwards, whom authorities say “catfished” a 15-year-old California girl online before traveling there and killing three members of her family.
Edwards’ 15-month stint as a State Police trooper ended Oct. 28, when he left his state job to join the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Southwest Virginia. According to California authorities, Edwards killed the girl’s mother and grandparents on Nov. 25 and tried to kidnap her before dying by suicide during a shootout with police.
State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the agency was choosing to “exercise its statutory discretion” to keep the employment records confidential. Asked if the agency could explain that choice given the significant public interest in the murders Edwards committed and his background as a police officer in Virginia, Geller said the state’s transparency laws don’t require the agency to comment further.
Edwards’ behavior as a State Police officer never triggered any internal investigations, according to the agency, and there was no potentially troubling information in his background that the agency would have been legally required to pass along to his new law enforcement employer in Washington County. Under Virginia law, the State Police would have had to tell the county sheriff’s office about any alleged criminal activity, excessive force or other misconduct in Edwards’ law enforcement background.
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