© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

Police Say Facebook Murder Suspect 'Shot And Killed Himself'


The Cleveland man who police say recorded himself killing a bystander and posted it to Facebook is now dead. Pennsylvania State Police say Steve Stephens took his own life late this morning after police pursued him briefly in Erie County. From member station WCPN ideastream, Nick Castele reports.

NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: On Easter Sunday, 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. was walking down East 93rd Street in Cleveland. Police say Steve Stephens drove up, made Godwin say a woman's name, then shot and killed him. They say he had no known connection to Godwin. According to Facebook, the suspect first posted a video to his page saying he planned to kill someone. Minutes later, he posted video of the shooting itself. And minutes after that, he streamed himself live, claiming to have killed more than a dozen people. Police say that has not turned out to be true.

After hundreds of tips and a day's-long manhunt, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says Stevens was recognized this morning at a McDonald's in Erie, Pa., about a hundred miles east of Cleveland. Police say he fled. And after a short chase, they tried a maneuver to stop his car, and he shot himself as his vehicle spun out. At a news conference this afternoon, Chief Williams did not discuss any possible motive.


CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS: We would like to have brought Stephen (ph) peacefully and really talked to him to find out exactly why this happened because there may be other people out there that are in similar situations that we can help.

CASTELE: Video of the shooting remained on Facebook for about two hours before the company deactivated the suspect's account. The company says it didn't receive its first report until around an hour, 45 minutes after the posting and shut down the account soon after. But images of Godwin's last moments spread across the Internet far beyond Facebook. Chief Williams says the incident shows the harm that social media can do.


WILLIAMS: This is something that should not have been shared around the world, period. And you know, our kids - although they should not have seen this, I'm sure a lot have. You know, they need to take this as a lesson. You can't do this in this country. You just can't do it.

CASTELE: Stephens worked at Beech Brook, a children's behavioral health center east of Cleveland. Beech Brook officials say he was a vocational specialist for youth and young adults and, before that, a youth mentor and that he passed background checks before being hired in 2008. Police confirm that Steve Stephens had a concealed carry permit and had no known criminal record outside of traffic tickets. They say their task now is to try to figure out motivation for the shooting and if anyone aided him as a fugitive. For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.