GENERAL

‘Facebook killer’ Steve Stephens found dead after car chase

Police say a man suspected of randomly shooting a grandfather on an Ohio street and posting video of the killing to Facebook has taken his own life.

Steve Stephens’ car was spotted on Tuesday morning outside a McDonald’s in the city of Erie, Pennsylvania.

State police gave chase and the suspect shot himself “as the vehicle was spinning out of control”, police said.

Stephens, 37, shot dead Robert Godwin, 74, as the victim walked home from Easter lunch on Sunday in Cleveland.

The fugitive’s mobile phone signal was last tracked on Sunday afternoon to Erie, 100 miles (160km) from where Mr Godwin was gunned down.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told a news conference: “We have closure in regards to the search for Steve Stephens.”

Pennsylvania State Police said that they had received a tip-off from an “alert citizen” shortly after 11:00 on Tuesday.

The suspect’s white Ford Fusion car had been spotted in the car park of a McDonald’s in Erie, near a local police headquarters.

State police pursued him for less than two miles before executing a tactic that involves ramming the rear of a vehicle to make it lose control.

“As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the PIT manoeuvre, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head,” Pennsylvania state police said in a statement.

During the encounter there were no injuries to members of the public or officers, and Stephens was pronounced dead at the scene, added Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.

Stephens ordered a 20-piece McNuggets meal and a large order of fries at the restaurant drive-thru, according to media reports.

An employee reportedly recognised the suspect and tried to keep him waiting for his order of fries while they alerted police.

Henry Sayers, the restaurant’s manager, told the New York Times: “But he just took his nuggets and said, ‘I have to go’, and he drove off.”

Investigators said they were still baffled as to what motivated Stephens – who worked as a case manager for a children’s mental health facility.

Mr Williams said: “We would like to have brought Steve in peacefully and really talk to him to find out exactly why this happened… find out why he did what he did and what drove him to this.”

Stephens had been added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List as the manhunt was extended from five US states to nationwide.

Police said earlier on Tuesday that authorities had received more than 400 tips, including as far away as Texas.

In other Facebook videos Stephens posted on the day of Mr Godwin’s killing, the suspect said he had “just snapped”, blaming gambling debts and a broken-down relationship among other things.

The family of Mr Godwin – a father of 10 and grandfather of 14 – said on Monday they forgave the suspected killer.

His daughter, Tonya Godwin-Baines, had urged Stephens to surrender.

“Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer,” she told Cleveland TV station WJW. “We want to wrap our arms around him.”

“I forgive you and love you, but most importantly, God loves you. God can heal your mind and save your soul.”

The victim’s son, Robert Godwin Jr, said: “Steve, I forgive you… I’m not happy what you did, but I forgive you.”

Cleveland officials had announced a reward of up to $50,000 (£39,000) for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.

Facebook has launched a review of its procedures after criticism that the footage stayed on the site for hours.

On Tuesday at the company’s annual conference in San Jose, California, founder Mark Zuckerberg said: “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Snr.

“We have a lot of work to do and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”

 

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