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Facebook video murder suspect Steven Stephens kills himself in Pennsylvania, police say

Cleveland police were searching for Steven Stephens, who

Cleveland police were searching for Steven Stephens, who posted a video of a murder on Facebook Live. Following a brief pursuit on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, Stephens shot and killed himself, Pennsylvania state police said. Photo Credit: Cleveland police via Twitter

A man who posted a video on Facebook of himself fatally shooting an elderly man in Cleveland shot himself in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, state police said.

Steve Stephens, who posted the video on April 16 showing himself killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., was spotted in Erie County, Pennsylvania, after a nationwide manhunt. Following a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself, police said. 

Here’s what we know about the case:

The search for Stephens

A worker at a McDonald's drive-thru in Erie recognized Stephens around 11 a.m. and alerted authorities, Pennsylvania state police said.

The owner of the fast-food restaurant told CNN that Stephens was told he had to wait for the fries he ordered as a way to keep him from leaving before police could arrive.

Once troopers located Stephens, he led them on a pursuit for about two miles in his white Ford Fusion, state police said. But when police sent Stephens' vehicle spinning out of control using a police maneuver, he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head, they said.

State police said they have at least three videos of the encounter with Stephens, but there is no plan to release them to the public.

It wasn't immediately clear where Stephens had been since the murder, as there are a lot of remote areas in Erie County where he could have been hiding, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said during an afternoon news conference. He said the area had also been searched on April 16.

“We won’t actually know where he was and what he was doing,” Williams said.

The police chief encouraged anyone who might have seen Stephens to still call the FBI tip line.

The manhunt for Stephens had expanded nationwide on April 17. Police, offering a $50,000 reward for information, received more than 400 tips, from as far away as Texas.

Williams said police wanted to bring Stephens in peacefully.

"We would have preferred that it had not ended this way," he said, adding he and the community had "a lot of questions" for Stephens.

The video 

Police initially said the video of the murder was broadcast live, but Facebook later clarified that the video was posted after the shooting.

According to Facebook, Stephens posted a total of three videos around the time of the murder. In the first, uploaded on April 16 at 2:09 p.m., he said he intended to commit murder. No one reported it, according to Facebook.

Two minutes later at 2:11 p.m., Stephens uploaded a video of the shooting. The third video, in which he confessed to the murder, was broadcast live at 2:22 p.m. and reported by someone shortly after it ended at 2:27 p.m.

The shooting video was not reported by Facebook users until 3:59 p.m. and Stephens' account was disabled at 4:22 p.m., Facebook said.

In the video of the shooting, Stephens asked Godwin to say the name Joy Lane, according to reports. "She's the reason why this is about to happen to you," Stephens said in the video. 

Lane is reportedly an ex-girlfriend of Stephens. 

Stephens' mother told CNN that her son had told her on Saturday that it was "the last time" she would see him. Stephens also told her he was "shooting people" because he was "mad with his girlfriend," apparently referring to Lane.

The victim 

Stephens is not believed to have known Godwin, a retired foundry worker who media reports said spent Easter Sunday morning with his son and daughter-in-law before he was killed.

In a CNN interview before Stephens' death, Godwin's son, Robby Miller, forgave him.

"I forgive him because we are all sinners," Miller said, adding that he wanted Stephens to be brought to justice.

Godwin's daughter, Brenda Haymon, was less sympathetic.

"All I can say is that I wish he had gone down in a hail of 100 bullets," Haymon told CNN. "I wish it had gone down like that instead of him shooting himself."

Facebook’s response

The shooting marked the latest among a number of video clips posted on Facebook showing violent crime, raising questions about how the world's biggest social media network moderates content.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged on April 18 that his company would do all it could to prevent postings of incidents like the shooting. Speaking at Facebook's annual conference for software developers, Zuckerberg said, “our hearts go out to the family and friends” of Godwin.

Facebook vice president Justin Osofsky said the company was reviewing the procedure that users go through to report videos and other material that violates the social media platform's standards. The shooting video was visible on Facebook for nearly two hours before it was reported, the company said.


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