BREAKING UPDATE | The man who randomly gunned down a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook killed himself Tuesday during a police chase in Pennsylvania that began when a McDonald's employee recognized him at a drive-thru.
It marked a violent end to the nearly 48-hour multistate manhunt for Steve Stephens, whose case brought another round of criticism down on Facebook over how well it polices objectionable material shared by users.
Acting on a tip from the McDonald's, Pennsylvania State Police spotted Stephens leaving the restaurant in Erie and went after him, bumping his car to try to get it to stop, authorities said. He shot himself in the head as the car spun out of control, police said
"This started with one tragedy and ended with another person taking their own life," said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams. "We would have liked to have brought Steve in peacefully and really talked to him about why this happened."
Stephens, a 37-year-old job counselor who worked with teenagers and young people, was wanted on murder charges in the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, a former foundry worker and father of 10 who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was shot.
The chilling video was on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down. It was just the latest instance of crime footage being shared on social media.
At a Silicon Valley conference Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly addressed the Cleveland case, saying Facebook has "a lot of work to do" and "we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this."
Police would not speculate on what was behind the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, Stephens talked about losing everything he had to gambling and having trouble with his girlfriend. He said he "just snapped."
One of Godwin's daughters, Debbie Godwin, said she wished Stephens had been captured.
"I'm not happy he's dead at all, not at all. If you did it, you have to face your crime," she said.
The break in the case came when police received a tip that Stephens was at the McDonald's in Erie, in the northwestern corner of the state, about 100 miles east of Cleveland. He ordered a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and french fries, according to the manager.
Restaurant owner Thomas DuCharme Jr. told the Erie Times-News that his employees tried to "buy some time for the cops" by telling Stephens his order of fries was delayed. Stephens said he had no time to wait and drove off, DuCharme said.
Police picked up the trail in a chase that lasted 2 miles before Stephens took his own life, authorities said.
Law enforcement officials had said on Monday that Stephens' cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon near Erie.
The police chief said Tuesday that it wasn't clear whether Stephens had any help while he was on the run or where he had been and that investigators will try to retrace he steps.
Facebook said it removed the video of the shooting 23 minutes after learning of it. The company has since announced it is launching a review for reporting harmful content.
"This is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period," Cleveland's police chief said.
In the video, Stephens told Godwin the name of his girlfriend and said, "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you." Godwin did not seem to recognize the name.
Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim on Facebook that he killed over a dozen people.
Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said. Within a day, authorities expanded the search nationwide and offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
ORIGINAL STORY | In a rambling video, Steve Stephens said, "I snapped, I just snapped." But as the manhunt dragged on Monday for the man accused of posting Facebook footage of himself killing a retiree, police were unable to explain what set him off.
"Only Steve knows that," Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said as authorities posted a $50,000 reward for Stephens' capture in the shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old former foundry worker.
In the video, Stephens blamed a former girlfriend he had lived with, saying he woke up last week and "couldn't take it anymore." But in a statement Monday, the woman shed little light on what might have gone wrong and said Stephens was good to her and her children.
As for the shooting victim, Godwin appeared to have been selected at random, gunned down while picking up aluminum cans Sunday afternoon after spending Easter with some of his children.
A manhunt that started in Cleveland's gritty east side expanded rapidly into a nationwide search for Stephens, a 37-year-old job counselor who worked with teens and young adults, police said.
"He could be nearby. He could be far away or anywhere in between," FBI agent Stephen Anthony said.
Law enforcement officials said his cellphone signal was last detected on Sunday afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Cleveland.
Police reported getting dozens and dozens of tips, and nine schools in Philadelphia were locked down Monday while authorities investigated possible sightings of Stephens. But they said there was no sign he was actually there.
Some of those who know Stephens described him as pleasant and kind, while some said he had a gambling problem. He filed for bankruptcy two years ago.
In another video posted to Facebook, Stephens said that he gambled away everything and that he and his girlfriend had planned to marry but didn't, without saying why.
"He got along with everybody, so it's just unbelievable what happened," said Alexis Lee, a friend who saw Stephens last week.
The police chief said: "We are not going to pinpoint a specific thing and say this is what triggered this, because we don't know."
Godwin's daughter said he was killed while collecting cans in a plastic shopping bag.
"Not because he needed the money, it was just something he did," said 52-year-old Debbie Godwin. "That's all he was doing. He wasn't harming anyone."
She said her father, who had 10 children, was a gentle man with nothing mean about him.
Dozens of family, friends and community members gathered Monday evening in Cleveland for a vigil to remember Godwin. They hugged and comforted each other, while urging an end to the violence on their city streets.
In the shooting video, Stephens told Godwin a woman's name and said, "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you." The victim did not seem to recognize the woman's name. The gunman then pointed a weapon at Godwin, who shielded his face with the plastic bag.
The woman Stephens spoke of, Joy Lane, said in a text to CBS that "we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened." She said Stephens was "a nice guy" who was generous to everyone.
The video of the killing was on Facebook for about three hours before it was taken down.
Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim in a separate video on Facebook that he killed more than a dozen people.
Detectives spoke with Stephens on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.
Stephens worked at Beech Brook, a social services agency in suburban Cleveland that deals with vulnerable young people. He helped them gain job skills and find employment, said Beech Brook spokeswoman Nancy Kortemeyer.
An extensive background check before he was hired turned up nothing worrisome, she said.
Stephens filed for bankruptcy in January 2015. His attorney at the time, Trent Binger, said Monday that he remembered Stephens discussing gambling problems.
"He was an easy client to deal with," Binger said. "Always respectful to me ... well-mannered."
If you'd like to help the Godwin family, GoFundMe is working with the following campaign organizer to ensure the funds donated to this account are transferred directly to the family: www.gofundme.com/help-for-cleveland-victim-family.
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