Suspect in Facebook video murder kills himself

Steve Stephens shot himself as police closed in on him in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A man who identified himself as Stevie Steve is seen in a combination of stills from a video he broadcast of himself on Facebook in Cleveland, Ohio, US, April 16, 2017.

The man who randomly killed a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook shot himself to death on Tuesday after police chased him down in his car in Pennsylvania, ending a multi-state manhunt less than 48 hours after it began.

Acting on a tip, Pennsylvania State Police spotted Steve Stephens, 37, in Erie County, in the state's northwest corner, authorities said.

After a brief pursuit, he pulled over, and as officers approached the car, he took his own life, authorities said.

"We would have preferred it not ended this way," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said.

The break in the case came when police received a tip that Stephens' car was in a McDonald's parking lot, Willlams said. Law enforcement officials had said on Monday that his cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon near Erie, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Cleveland.

Stephens, a job counsellor who worked with teenagers and young people, was wanted on an aggravated murder charge in the shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old man who was picking up aluminium cans on Sunday when he was gunned down.

Stephens posted a video of himself killing Godwin. "I snapped, I just snapped," he said.

Police would not speculate on what was behind the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, he talked about losing everything he had to gambling and having trouble with his girlfriend.

TRT World's Kate Fisher has more from Washington.

Facebook under pressure

The video of the killing was up for three hours before it was taken down, raising questions about Facebook's handling of objectionable material posted by its users. Facebook said it removed the video 23 minutes after learning of it.

In the video of the shooting, 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 recognise the name.

The woman Stephens spoke of, Joy Lane, said in a text message to CBS that "we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened."

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.