BREAKING: Steve Stephens, suspected ‘Facebook Live Killer,’ fatally shoots himself, police say

BREAKING: Steve Stephens, suspected ‘Facebook Live Killer,’ fatally shoots himself, police say
Pennsylvania State Police said Tuesday that Steve Stephens, wanted for the alleged murder of a 74-year-old man in Cleveland on Facebook Live, fatally shot himself in Erie County. (Image source: YouTube screen cap)

UPDATE 2:23 p.m. ET: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the Godwin murder Tuesday while speaking at F8, the social media giant’s annual developers conference, CNN reported.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr.,” Zuckerberg said, adding that “we have a lot of work, and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”

Suspect Steve Stephens, who police said fatally shot himself Tuesday in Erie County, Pennsylvania, posted video of the Godwin killing on Facebook where it stayed up for about two hours before being taken down.

Facebook has already received criticism for other posted content — some of it livestreamed — on the social media channel.

“It’s actually the users who are exposed to something that they find disturbing, and then they start that process of review,” Sarah T. Roberts, an assistant professor at UCLA who studies online content moderation, told CNN.

Zuckerberg said Facebook is developing artificial intelligence to better flag content, CNN added.

UPDATE 2:02 p.m. ET: After a McDonald’s employee recognized Stephens at the drive-thru Tuesday, there was an attempt to delay his order while police were called, the New York Times reported.

Carl Monday, a WOIO-TV investigative reporter, said a McDonald’s employee told him it was their tip that led police to Stephens.

Henry Sayers, the restaurant’s manager, said Stephens bought a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and large French fries for $5.35, the Times reported, but his order of fries was purposely delayed.

“But he just took his nuggets and said, ‘I have to go,’ and he drove off,” Sayers said, according to the Times, noting that Stephens drove away at a normal rate of speed.

Investigators picked up a “ping” from Stephens’ cellphone near Erie on Sunday, the Times reported, but weren’t sure how long he’d been in the area, which is about 100 east of Cleveland where Godwin’s murder took place.

UPDATE 1:29 p.m.: Debbie Godwin, one of the daughters of murder victim Robert Godwin, on Tuesday told Time that she and her family believe suspect Steve Stephens took the “easy way out” by killing himself.

“I’m not happy the man is dead,” she told the magazine. “We wish he would have served the time for what he did to my father. He didn’t get to pay any penalty for what he did to my father.”

Godwin added to Time that her family felt similarly about Stephens’ death.

UPDATE 1:17 p.m.: Presumably given the Facebook element of Stephens’ suspected killing of Godwin, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters Tuesday that “people on social media kind of know the power, and I think they know the harm it can do. So we’ve talked before about people not living their lives on social media. And being truthful on social media. And not harming people via social media. And this is a prime example. This is not something that should not have been shared around the world. Period. … Our kids, although they should not have seen this — I’m sure a lot have — they need to take this as a lesson. We can’t do this in this country. We just can’t do it.”

UPDATE 1:06 p.m. ET: Pennsylvania State Police added Tuesday that Stephens was spotted by “an alert citizen” less than two miles from the agency’s Troop E headquarters. After Stephens took off, troopers in marked patrol vehicles pursued him for two miles, police said.

The troopers used a PIT maneuver to disable Stephens’ vehicle, a white Ford Fusion, police said. As the vehicle was spinning out of control, police said Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head.

No injuries to law enforcement or members of the public were reported, police said, although a pursuing trooper couldn’t stop in time and slid into Stephens’ vehicle, which resulted in minor damage.

UPDATE 12:39 p.m. ET: Branda Haymon, daughter of murder victim Robert Godwin, reacted to Stephens’ death by saying, “All I can say is that I wish he had gone down in a hail of 100 bullets,” CNN reported.

Godwin’s other daughters — Debbie Godwin and Tonya Godwin Baines — said Monday that their faith in God has given them the strength to forgive Stephens. Debbie Godwin said she believes she would have the grace to embrace her father’s suspected killer.

“It’s just the way my heart is, it’s the right thing to do,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “And so, I just would want him to know that even in his worst state, he’s loved, you know, by God, that God loves him, even in the bad stuff that he did to my dad. That he’s still loved. And that he has some worth while, even though he’s gonna have to go through many things to get better, there’s worth in him.”

UPDATE 12:33 p.m. ET: Here’s an update from Chief Calvin Williams of the Cleveland Police, who said Pennsylvania State Police received a tip at 11 a.m. saying the vehicle they were looking for was in a McDonald’s parking lot near Erie.

The officers responded, Williams said, and after a short pursuit the vehicle was stopped. When officers approached the vehicle, Williams said Stephens “took his own life”:

Original story below

Pennsylvania State Police said Tuesday that suspected “Facebook Live Killer” Steve Stephens fatally shot himself in Erie County after a brief pursuit.

Stephens, 37, was charged with aggravated murder early Monday after he allegedly shot and killed 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. on Easter Sunday afternoon while streaming it on Facebook, according to Cleveland police.

Facebook disputes that the video was streamed live, saying Stephens posted the video of Godwin’s killing after the fact. The video was up for over two hours before Facebook removed it, along with Stephens’ account.

“This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook,” the social media giant said. “We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety.”

Stephens can be seen in the clip walking up to Godwin, who collecting aluminum cans in a plastic bag, and telling him to repeat a woman’s name as he pointed a gun at him. Godwin didn’t appear to recognize the woman’s name.

“She’s the reason this is about to happen to you,” Stephens told him before pulling the trigger.

This story has been updated.

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