Facebook killer takes his own life as police close in

AP PHOTO A makeshift memorial sits along a fence Monday, near where Robert Godwin Sr., was killed in Cleveland. Police said Steve Stephens killed Godwin on Sunday and posted the video on Facebook.

ERIE, Pa. — The man who randomly gunned down a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook killed himself Tuesday during a police chase in Pennsylvania that began when a McDonald’s drive-thru attendant recognized him.

It marked a violent end to the nearly 48-hour multistate manhunt for Steve Stephens, whose case brought another round of criticism down on Facebook over how responsibly it polices objectionable material posted by users.

Acting on a tip from the McDonald’s, state troopers spotted Stephens leaving the restaurant in Erie and went after him, bumping his car to try to get it to stop, authorities said. He shot himself in the head after the car spun and came to a stop, police said.

“This started with one tragedy and ended with another person taking their own life,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams. “We would have liked to have brought Steve in peacefully and really talked to him about why this happened.”

Stephens, a 37-year-old job counselor who worked with young people, was wanted on murder charges in the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, a former foundry worker and father of 10 who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was shot.

The chilling video was on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down. It was just the latest instance of crime footage being shared on social media.

At a Silicon Valley conference Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly addressed the Cleveland case, saying Facebook has “a lot of work to do” and “we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this.”

Police would not speculate on what triggered the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, Stephens talked about having trouble with his girlfriend and losing everything he had to gambling. He said he “just snapped.”

One of Godwin’s daughters, Debbie Godwin, said she wished Stephens had been captured. “I’m not happy he’s dead at all, not at all. If you did it, you have to face your crime,” she said.

The break in the case came when police received a tip that Stephens was at the McDonald’s in Erie, in far western Pennsylvania about 100 miles east of Cleveland, where he ordered a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and fries.

The drive-thru attendant thought she recognized Stephens and called state police, restaurant owner Thomas DuCharme Jr. told the Erie Times-News. State Police Maj. William Teper Jr. would say only that the tip came from a “concerned citizen.”

The McDonald’s employees tried to “buy some time for the cops” by telling Stephens his fries were delayed, but he said he had no time to wait and drove off, according to DuCharme.