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Friday 28 July 2017

Facebook killer shoots himself during police chase

Cleveland Police image of Steve Stephens, who died after a pursuit, officers say. (Cleveland Police via AP)
Cleveland Police image of Steve Stephens, who died after a pursuit, officers say. (Cleveland Police via AP)

A man who randomly killed a 74-year-old in Ohio and posted video of the crime on Facebook has fatally shot himself in his car during a police chase in Pennsylvania.

Steve Stephens's death ended a multi-state manhunt less than 48 hours after it began.

Acting on a tip, Pennsylvania state police spotted Stephens, 37, leaving a McDonald's in Erie and went after him, bumping his car to try to get it to stop, authorities said.

He shot himself in the head as the car spun out of control, 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 job counsellor who worked with teenagers and young people, was wanted on murder charges over the shooting of Robert Godwin Sr.

The 74-year-old former foundry worker and father of 10 was picking up aluminium cans on Sunday when he was gunned down in Cleveland.

The chilling video was posted on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down, drawing criticism of the social network and renewing questions about how responsibly it polices objectionable material.

At a Silicon Valley conference on Tuesday, Facebook chief executive 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 was behind the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, Stephens talked about losing everything he had to gambling and having trouble with his girlfriend.

He said he "just snapped".

One of Mr 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's car was in the McDonald's car park in Erie, in the north-western corner of the state, about 100 miles east of Cleveland, authorities said.

The chase lasted two miles before Stephens took his own life, police said.

Law enforcement officials had said on Monday that Stephens's mobile phone was last tracked on Sunday afternoon near Erie.

The police chief said it was not clear whether Stephens had any help while he was on the run or where he had been and that investigators will try to retrace his steps.

Facebook said it removed the video of the shooting 23 minutes after learning of it.

The company has since announced it is launching a review for reporting harmful content.

"This is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period," Cleveland's police chief said.

In the video, Stephens told Mr Godwin the name of his girlfriend and said: "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you."

Mr Godwin did not seem to recognise the name.

Investigators said that Mr Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim on Facebook that he killed more than a dozen people.

Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by mobile phone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.

Within a day, authorities expanded the search nationwide and offered a 50,000 dollar (£39,000) reward for information leading to his capture.

AP

Press Association

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