Police: Man sought in Cleveland Facebook killing is dead

State Police said Steve Stephens shot and killed himself after a brief pursuit


By Mike Householder and Mark Gillispie 
Associated Press

ERIE, Pa. — The man who randomly killed a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook shot himself to death in his car Tuesday during a police chase in Pennsylvania, ending a multistate manhunt less than 48 hours after it began.

Acting on a tip, Pennsylvania State Police spotted Steve Stephens, 37, leaving a McDonald's 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.

An armor police vehicle drives through Fairmount park in Philadelphia, Monday, April 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
An armor police vehicle drives through Fairmount park in Philadelphia, Monday, April 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

"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 job counselor who worked with teenagers and young people, was wanted on murder charges in the shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old former foundry worker and father of 10 who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was gunned down.

The chilling video was on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down, drawing criticism of the social network and renewing questions about how responsibly it polices objectionable material.

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' car was in the McDonald's parking lot in Erie, in the northwestern corner of the state, about 100 miles east of Cleveland, authorities said. The chase lasted 2 miles before Stephens took his own life, police 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.

Associated PressCopyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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