Friday 23 March 2018

Facebook killer was caught by police after he pulled up at McDonald's

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)
Police at the scene where Steve Stephens shot himself after a car chase (Erie Times-News/AP) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Facebook murder suspect Steve Stephens' run from justice ended because of a chicken nuggets and fries takeaway, it has emerged.

The man who police say shot a Cleveland pensioner and posted video of the killing on Facebook pulled up to the drive-thru window of a McDonald's restaurant outside Erie, Pennsylvania, and waited for his order.

It was almost lunchtime on Tuesday and authorities were in the third day of an intensive manhunt for Stephens, 37.

But more than 100 miles from the shooting, Stephens' time on the run was nearly up when the attendant who took his money recognised the suspect and dialled 911.

Stephens pulled up to the next window, where restaurant owner Thomas DuCharme and a supervisor tried stalling him by telling him his fries were delayed.

But Stephens did not want to wait, taking his McNuggets and speeding out of the car park, nearly hitting Gail Wheeler, 54, a retail operations manager from Erie who was on her way home from shopping.

"Two seconds later, I hear these sirens, and they come whipping past me," she said.

Ms Wheeler followed behind for a couple of miles and said the chase slowed suddenly from 50mph to about 20mph when the road narrowed from four lanes to two.

One of the pursuing troopers picked his spot - in front of an abandoned school - and rammed Stephens' bumper to get him to stop.

The Ford Fusion did a half-turn and came to rest at the kurb.

Police were starting to get out of their cruisers when "I heard a shot. It was loud and distinctive", Ms Wheeler said.

"The next thing I know, they're approaching the car. The one officer just shook his head. He was closest to the car. They had their guns out but when he shook his head, they lowered their guns."

Stephens killed himself, authorities said.

State police major William Teper said the trooper who rammed Stephens' car "saw him pull the gun out and shoot himself".

Press Association

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