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 Austin Edwards, 28, 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.
Edwards was accused of murdering 69-year-old Mary 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. Authorities alleged that Edwards kidnapped a teenage girl from the home after committing the grisly crime that took the lives of her grandfather, grandmother and mother.
She was not harmed during the police pursuit of Edwards and was taken into protective custody, according to CBS Los Angeles.
As the station reported, officers at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office 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 acquiring her personal information.
“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.
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.
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