The search for the man who posted a video to Facebook this weekend showing himself fatally shooting an elderly man in Cleveland has finally come to an end.
Steve Stephens, 37, was found dead in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday morning from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Two days earlier, Stephens published a horrifying video of him murdering Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old father of nine and grandfather of 14.
According to Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, shortly after 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Pennsylvania state police officers were informed that Stephens’s white Ford Fusion was in a McDonald’s parking lot near Erie. Cpl. Adam Reed of the Pennsylvania State Police said a citizen tipster led them to Stephens’s location. When the cops responded, the vehicle fled the area. After a “short pursuit,” the chief said, “the vehicle was stopped, [and] as the officers approached that vehicle, Steve Stephens took his own life.”
During a press conference, police officials and the mayor of Erie all refused to discuss specific law-enforcement tactics involved in the pursuit. Police were not able to comment on how Stephens evaded police pursuit for nearly two full days.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Pennsylvania State police for their bravery and vigilance in spotting and pursuing ‘Facebook Live Killer’ Steve Stephens in Erie and acting without hesitation to keep others safe,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. “On behalf of all Pennsylvanians and Americans, I thank these state troopers, the entire State Police and all law enforcement involved for their heroism in protecting their fellow citizens.”
Godwin was targeted at random by Stephens, who could be heard ranting in the video before opening fire.
“Find me somebody I’m about to kill, I’m gonna kill this guy right here. The older dude,” Stephens said after getting out of his car in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood on Easter Sunday. After approaching Godwin, who was walking home after a family meal, Stephens told him to “do me a favor” and say the name “Joy Lane—she’s the reason this is about to happen to you.”
Stephens then shot Godwin point-blank in the head.
Lane later confirmed that she was dating Stephens. “I am sorry that all of this has happened,” she said. “Steve is a really nice guy… He is generous with everyone he knows. This is a very difficult time for me and my family.”
Facebook was criticized in the immediate aftermath of the killing because the video was left up for at least a few hours before Stephens’s profile was taken down. The incident has raised new questions about Facebook’s role in preventing these types of posts from spreading. In the meantime, Stephens’s gruesome video went viral.
“We know we need to do better,” Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations at Facebook, said in a statement on Monday. “We disabled the suspect’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the murder video, and two hours after receiving a report of any kind.”