US 'Facebook killer' takes own life after brief chaseTue, 18 Apr, 2017
| Posted By: The Times Of Earth (TOE)
"This is 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," said Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams (AFP Photo/Angelo M
A US hunt for the gunman accused of murdering a grandfather and posting the crime on Facebook ended Tuesday with the suspect killing himself after a brief pursuit with police in Pennsylvania.
Steve Stephens, 37, thought to have been mentally unstable, had been on the run after allegedly shooting dead 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr on Easter Sunday, seemingly at random in broad daylight in Cleveland, Ohio.
The murder and a video later posted to Facebook sparked outrage across the world and renewed scrutiny of the growing number of grisly videos being posted on social media.
Facebook has since removed the footage, and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged Tuesday that the world's largest social network had a role to play in stemming the worrisome trend.
"There is a lot of work to do here," he told a developers' conference. "And we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening."
Authorities in Cleveland have urged a nationwide debate on the issue of violence posted to social media, and to find answers to the plague of gun crime rocking America.
The manhunt ended when police received a tip off shortly after 11:00 am (1500 GMT) that Stephens was sitting in a white Ford Fusion vehicle in a McDonald's parking lot near Erie Pennsylvania, just over the border from Ohio.
"There was a short pursuit in which the vehicle was stopped. As the officers approached that vehicle, Steve Stephens took his own life," Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams said.
Stephens, who had been described as armed and dangerous, had been on the FBI's Most Wanted list with authorities offering up to $50,000 in rewards for information leading to his arrest.
According to a timeline of events pieced together by police and Facebook, Stephens posted a video on Sunday afternoon saying he intended to kill, and followed up two minutes later with video of Godwin's shooting.
In a third video 11 minutes later, streamed live from Stephens's car, he said he intended to kill others.
Police currently believe that Godwin is the only known victim.
Stephens's mother told CNN she called him after learning about the video, and he had told her he was shooting people because he was "mad with his girlfriend."
The incident was the latest in a string of disturbing crimes captured on Facebook video, including the alleged gang rape of a 15-year-old girl, two fatal shootings, and the kidnapping and torture of a disabled 18-year-old man.
"I think everybody has learned from this," said Williams.
"This is 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."
Facebook took down Stephens's videos and disabled his account about two hours after he first started uploading.
Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations for the social media giant, acknowledged in a company blog post, that the delay was too long.
"As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible," he said.
More than 400 tips had poured in before the suspect was spotted in Pennsylvania.
Police expressed regret that Stephens had taken his own life.
"There might be people out there in similar situations and we could find out why he did what he did," said Williams.
"If you're feeling, you know, not quite right and if there are things going on in your life that you need assistance with, you need to reach out and call somebody. And we'll get you that help," he added.
Members of Godwin's family had offered Stephens their forgiveness.
"I don't want that man to die, I want him brought to justice," one of his sons, Robby Miller, told CNN.
"This particular incident received a lot of attention and rightfully so," Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told reporters.
"We cannot resolve this underlying issue of violence particularly gun violence if we do not function and operate and have the same compassion and commitment that we've shown here," Jackson said.
It was not immediately clear how long Stephens had been in Erie, an area of remote woodland, farms and barns. Police initially searched the area on Sunday.
Stephens worked for a behavioral health agency serving children through mental health services, foster care and adoption, at-risk youth and other programs.