Cleveland Facebook killer kills himself after chase in PA
Pennsylvania State Police say the suspect in the random killing of a Cleveland retiree posted on Facebook has shot and killed himself after a brief pursuit.
Police say Steve Stephens was spotted Tuesday morning by state police in Erie County, in the state's northwest corner. Authorities say police tried to pull Stephens over and, after a brief pursuit, he shot and killed himself.
Stephens was wanted on an aggravated murder charge in the shooting death of a 74-year-old retired man in Cleveland on Sunday.
He posted video of that shooting on Facebook.
The 37-year-old had been on the run since, prompting a search in neighboring states and prompting panicked sightings that proved to be false alarms.
Stephens posted a video of himself killing Robert Godwin Sr., a former foundry worker who had 10 children, police said. In it, he said, “I snapped, I just snapped.” But police would not speculate on what was behind it.
“Only Steve knows that,” Williams said.
Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams says authorities received a tip that Stephens' vehicle was in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Erie on Tuesday morning. State police tried to pull him over and, after a brief chase, he killed himself.
It wasn't immediately clear where Stephens had been since the Sunday shooting in Cleveland, which killed a 74-year-old retired man.
Williams says investigators had hoped to talk with Stephens to find out a motive.
In the video, Stephens told Godwin a woman’s name and said, “She’s the reason that this is about to happen to you.” Godwin did not seem to recognize the name.
The woman Stephens spoke of, Joy Lane, said in a text message to CBS that “we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened.”
She also said Stephens was “a nice guy” who was good to her and her children.
Stephens filed for bankruptcy two years ago despite holding down a job as a counselor helping young people develop job skills and find employment. The behavioral health agency where he worked said an extensive background check before he was hired turned up nothing worrisome.
In one video posted on Facebook, Stephens said that he gambled away everything and that he and his girlfriend had planned to marry but did not, without saying why. He blamed her for what was about to happen.
Some friends said they knew about his gambling. But the videos showed a man they did not recognize.
Alexis Lee, who saw Stephens last week, said his childhood friend always seemed respectful and got along with everybody.
“He never ever told me he had problems or issues. It was always good things,” Lee said. “He was always just so happy and cool, calm, collected, like, that’s why it’s so shocking.”
On Monday evening, Facebook announced that it was launching a review for reporting harmful content following the killing. The company said that Stephens posted a video of himself announcing his intent to commit murder, then two minutes later posted another video of himself shooting and killing Godwin. A few minutes after that, he went live and confessed.
The company said it disabled Stephen’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the video of the fatal shooting and two hours after receiving any report.
“In this case we did not receive a report about the first video, and we only received a report about the second video — containing the shooting — more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted,” said Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations. “We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended.”
Officers searched dozens of places around Cleveland without finding Stephens or any other victims before expanding the manhunt. Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.
Law enforcement officials said his cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon in Erie, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Cleveland.
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