Facebook video killing suspect Steve Stephens shoots himself to death

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Murder victim Robert Godwin and his daughter Debbie. Family photo

CLEVELAND (AP) – The Latest on a fatal shooting captured on video and later shared on Facebook (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

A woman says the Cleveland man suspected in a random videotaped killing posted on Facebook nearly hit her as he left the Pennsylvania McDonald’s restaurant where an employee recognized him and called 911.

Gail Wheeler, of Erie, was on her way home from a supermarket and was stopped at a red light when she says Steve Stephens came “whipping out” of the McDonald’s parking lot. She says state police troopers weren’t far behind.

Wheeler says she followed the pursuit and saw a state trooper “clip the back bumper” of Stephens’ car to get him to stop. The car did a half-turn and came to rest against the curb.

That’s when she says she heard a gunshot.

Police say Stephens shot and killed himself at the end of the pursuit.

2:40 p.m.

An alert McDonald’s employee led Pennsylvania police to the suspect in a Cleveland slaying that was recorded and posted on Facebook.

Henry Sayers, the Erie restaurant’s manager, tells reporters that Steve Stephens pulled up to the drive-thru Tuesday morning and ordered a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and french fries.

He says the attendant recognized Stephens, who was wanted in Sunday’s slaying of a retired Ohio man, and called 911.

Restaurant owner Thomas DuCharme Jr. tells the Erie Times-News that workers tried to “buy some time for the cops” and told Stephens his order of fries was delayed. DuCharme says Stephens replied he had no time to wait and drove away.

State police gave chase. Authorities say Stephens shot and killed himself during the pursuit.

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2:25 p.m.

The social services agency that employed a Cleveland man who shared video of an apparently random killing he committed says the suspect’s suicide brings both relief and sadness.

Steve Stephens worked at Beech Brook, an agency in suburban Cleveland that deals with vulnerable young people. The agency says that “every suicide is a tragedy” but that Stephens’ death eliminates the community’s fear that he might kill again.

Pennsylvania State Police say troopers acting on a tip spotted Stephens’ vehicle Tuesday in Erie, in Pennsylvania’s northwest corner, and began a brief chase. When troopers tried to spin his car to get him to stop, they say he pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head.

He was wanted in Sunday’s slaying of a retired Ohio man.

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2 p.m.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his thoughts are with the family of a retiree shot to death in an apparently random Cleveland attack that was recorded and posted on Facebook by a suspect who later killed himself in Pennsylvania.

Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams says the case offers lessons on the power of social media and the harm that can be done online. He says the video never should have been shared around the world.

Zuckerberg said Tuesday that Facebook will do all it can to prevent such tragedies. The company had said after Sunday’s slaying that it is launching a review for reporting harmful content.

Zuckerberg made his comments at an annual conference for developers and businesses who create apps and services on Facebook.


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ERIE, Pa. (AP) — 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.

“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.

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