Saturday 24 March 2018

'He could be nearby, he could be far away, or anywhere in between' - Police in five states search for Facebook Live murder suspect Newsdesk Newsdesk

Authorities in several states are on the lookout for a man believed to have shot an elderly father and then posted a video of the apparently random killing on Facebook.

Police said Steve Stephens (37) killed Robert Godwin Sr (74) while the pensioner was collecting aluminium cans in Cleveland, Ohio.

On day two of the manhunt, FBI agent Stephen Anthony said Stephens, a counsellor for young adults "could be nearby, he could be far away, or anywhere in between".

Investigators said Mr Godwin is the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite the suspect's claim in a separate video on Facebook that he killed more than a dozen people.

Officers have searched dozens of places around the city and spoke with the suspect by mobile phone, police said.

Police chief Calvin Williams warned residents to be on their guard as they go about their day.

Authorities also warned people in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to be alert for Stephens, who is wanted on a charge of aggravated murder.

Mr Godwin was apparently shot while out picking up cans in a plastic shopping bag, his daughter said.

"Not because he needed the money, it was just something he did," Debbie Godwin, 52, said. "That's all he was doing. He wasn't harming anyone."

She said her father, who had 10 children, was a gentle man.

"We called him the junk man," she said. "He'd pick up things off the street and fix them. He picked up bikes and he fixed them."

The motive for the shooting was not entirely clear from the shaky video, in which Stephens told Mr Godwin a woman's name and said: "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you."

Mr Godwin did not seem to recognise the woman's name.

The suspect then pointed a gun at Mr Godwin, who shielded his face with the plastic bag.

Facebook said the video was posted after the killing but was not broadcast on Facebook Live as police initially indicated. The suspect did go live on the social media site at another point on Sunday.

The video of the killing was on Facebook for about three hours before it was taken down. Stephens's Facebook page was also eventually removed.

"This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook," the company 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."

In the separate video, Stephens said: "I killed 13, so I'm working on 14 as we speak."

Police said they have not verified any other shootings or deaths.

Stephens worked at Beech Brook, a behavioural health agency headquartered in Pepper Pike, near Cleveland. He helped young people develop job skills and find employment.

An extensive background check before he was hired did not reveal anything that caused alarm, Beech Brook spokeswoman Nancy Kortemeyer said.

"We just hope Mr Stephens is apprehended as quickly as possible so that no-one else is injured," she added.

In one of the videos, Stephens could be seen holding up his employee identification and said: "I'm killing with my Beech Brook badge on, too."

Press Association

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