The gunman who fatally shot an elderly man in a random attack in Cleveland on Easter Sunday and then posted video of the killing to Facebook is dead, police say.
Steve Stephens, 37, fatally shot himself in Erie, Pennsylvania, state police said on Twitter.
His death comes nearly two days after the Cleveland shooting that shocked the country, leading to a nationwide manhunt.
“We have closure in regards to the search for Steve Stephens,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said at a press conference. “This particular incident received a lot of attention and rightfully so, because it was a loss of an innocent victim. We however have many, many homicides, not only in Cleveland, but throughout this nation.
“Ultimately, what I believe one of the things that this has taught us is that we cannot resolve this underlining issue of violence, particularly gun violence, if we do not function and operate and have the same compassion and commitment that we have shown here,” Jackson said.
The victim has been identified by police as 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. You can read more about him here.
Jackson offered his condolences to the Godwin family and thanked the community for helping in locating Stephens.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family of the victim, Robert Godwin. The crowdfunding website says it has confirmed the funds will be given to the family.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Erie McDonald’s Employees Recognized Stephens When He Came Through Their Drive-Thru & Held Onto His Fries While They Called Police
The Pennsylvania State Police said Steve Stephens was located by police Tuesday morning in Erie County. After a brief pursuit, Stephens fatally shot himself, police said.
Erie is located about an hour and a half from Cleveland, and Stephens wrote on Facebook that he often went to a casino located there. Police confirmed Tuesday that they did receive a cell phone ping placing Stephens in Erie on Sunday, and had searched for him there.
Stephens was spotted about 11 a.m. in a McDonald’s parking lot by an alert citizen, who called authorities in one of hundreds of tips police received and followed up on, the state police said.
Stephens went through the McDonald’s drive-thru, ordering a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and fries meal about 30 minutes before he was seen by police, WOIO-TV reports.
McDonald’s employees told the New York Times they tried to keep Stephens at the restaurant while they called police after recognizing him. They held onto his fries, the McDonald’s manager told the Times.
“But he just took his nuggets and said, ‘I have to go,’ and he drove off,” the manager, Henry Sayers, told the newspaper.
Troopers canvassed the area immediately and saw Stephens a short time after the tip was called in. Troopers in marked patrol units began pursuing Stephens for about two miles. A trooper tried a PIT maneuver to disable Stephens’ vehicle, sending it spinning out of control. Police said Stephens then pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the head.
A trooper was not able to stop in time and slammed into Stephens’ car, causing minor damage. No police officers or members of the public were injured in the pursuit.
“I want to officially announce that the search for Steve Stephens has ended,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a press conference. “We are grateful to the people that gave this tip to the Pennsylvania State Police.
“We are grateful that this has ended. We would have preferred that it had not ended this way, because there are a lot of questions I’m sure that not only the family, but the city in general would have had for Steve as to why this transpired,” Williams said.
Williams also offered condolences to the Godwin family.
“You’ve all heard them on the news, they were forgiving of Steve for committing this atrocious act and we need to follow this lead,” Williams said. “As the mayor stated, there are other victims in this city and around the country and we continue to work hard to bring closure to those families also.”
Williams said there is lot they do not know yet and they are still investigating the original homicide and what led to Stephens’ death.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Pennsylvania State police for their bravery and vigilance in spotting and pursuing ‘Facebook Live Killer’ Steve Stephens in Erie and acting without hesitation to keep others safe,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement. “On behalf of all Pennsylvanians and Americans, I thank these state troopers, the entire State Police and all law enforcement involved for their heroism in protecting their fellow citizens.”
Cleveland Police had said in a press release that Steve Stephens was 6’1 and weighed 244 pounds, with a bald head and a full beard. He was driving a white or cream colored Ford Fusion car with temporary license plates.
“Armed and dangerous. If seen call 9-1-1. Do not approach,” police said.
The car is a newer model and was recently purchased in Stephens’ name, police said.
Until he was spotted in Pennsylvania, authorities said they hadn’t had an official sighting of Stephens since the incident happened, and are not sure if he is still in the area.
Investigators followed up on hundreds of leads and warned residents of Cleveland and surrounding states to be alert, police said.
“We are encouraging people to be careful, to be vigilant, to watch out for one another,” police said.
“We’ve brought everything to bear on this, from our federal partners, our state and local partners. And everybody is out there looking for Steve. We want this to end with as much peace as we can bring to this right now. … What happened today is senseless,” Williams said.
was assisting in the search, along with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Marshals Service was also involved.
“We’re going to make this individuals world very small,” Cleveland U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott said at a press conference prior to Stephens’ death.
Williams said Stephens committed a “heinous crime in our city” and needed to be taken off the street. He said anyone who was helping Stephens escape could also face charges and should turn him in. Williams said police had contact with Stephens by phone early on in the investigation, but hadn’t heard from him since.
Stephens remained at large Monday after police searched dozens of locations to no avail, following up on leads. Before he was found dead, police pleaded with Stephens to give himself up.
“We need Steve to turn himself in,” Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a press conference. “Right now there are two families out there hurting. Mr. Godwin’s family and of course there are people out there who care about Steve and want to see this not go any further.”
A $50,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of Stephens, authorities said.
2. ‘Found Me Somebody I’m Going to Kill, This Guy Right Here, This Old Dude,’ Stephens Says in the Horrific Video
Cleveland Police have confirmed that a video posted to Facebook showing an elderly man being shot is legitimate. The video was posted Sunday by a Facebook user going by the name “Stevie Steve,” who has been identified by police as Steve Stephens.
The shooting happened at 635 East 93rd Street about 2 p.m. Sunday, police said.
You can watch the video, which is extremely graphic, here.
Stephens’ Facebook page has since been taken down.
In the shocking video, Stephens can be seen driving down the road and he says, “Found me somebody I’m going to kill, this guy right here, this old dude,” before exiting his vehicle. He walks up to the man and begins talking to him, asking how old he is before pulling out a gun.
The man tries to shield himself before Stephens fires once, hitting the man in the head.
The video shows the man on the ground, bleeding as Stephens walks back to his white car, described by police as a Ford Fusion, and drives off.
Police have said Stephens will face an aggravated murder charge and have requested a high bail amount when he is arrested:
Family members of the victim, Robert Godwin Sr., 74, spoke to local reporters:
“He’s good guy. He’d give you the shirt off his back,” a family member told reporters. “This man right here was a good man. I hate he’s gone. It’s not real.”
They told a reporter they forgive Stephens and want him to turn himself in:
Police Chief Calvin Williams said Godwin, who was out on an Easter walk, was picked out at random in a “senseless” killing.
“We don’t know why. It’s senseless,” Williams said. “There was no need for this gentleman to lose his life.”
Mayor Frank Jackson said he wants to personally and on behalf of the city “give condolences to the family of the victim.”
Facebook said in a statement that the video was taken down because it violates the site’s standards.
“This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
Facebook said the shooting video was not posted on Facebook Live, but was recorded on Stephens’ phone and then uploaded to his page later. Other videos he posted on Sunday were streamed live, the social media site says.
Chief Williams was asked at a press conference if the attention to the Facebook killing would cause a “ripple effect” and lead to other incidents.
“We’re not even putting that energy out there,” Williams responded, “I think everybody has learned from this. The people on social media kind of know the power and I think they know the harm it can do. We’ve talked before about people not living their lives on social media, and being truthful on social media, and not harming people via social media.
“And this is a prime example. This is something that should not have been shared around the world, period,” Williams said. “Our kids, although they should not have seen this, I’m sure a lot have, and they need to take this as a lesson, we can’t do this in this country.”
You can read about Steve Stephens in Spanish at our sister site, Ahora Mismo, at the link below:
3. He Claimed on Facebook to Have Killed 15 People in an ‘Easter Day Slaughter,’ but Police Haven’t Found Any Other Victims
In another Facebook post, Stephens said he has killed 15 people. He had been posting on Facebook for at least four hours before his page was taken down.
His first post called the shootings an “Easter day slaughter.” In that post, he claimed to have killed 12 people, and said he “won’t stop” until his mother and another woman call him.
“I’m the #goodguy,” he wrote.
In later posts, he claimed to have killed three more people. He wrote that many of the bodies were in an abandoned house.
“This shit is real,” he wrote on Facebook.
Cleveland Police said in a press release that only one homicide has been confirmed. Police Chief Calvin Williams said they haven’t found any other victims. Williams said investigators checked the abandoned homes and other locations mentioned in the videos and did not locate anyone.
“Currently there are no other victims that we know of,” Williams said. “So far there are no more victims that we know that are tied to Steve and this incident.”
In another video Stephens says he has “snapped” and has a “lot of built in anger and frustration,” telling the man on the other line he has killed a couple people. You can watch the video below:
“I snapped, dog, I just snapped,” he tells the man on the phone, saying he shamed his fraternity with his actions. “I just killed 13 motherf*ckers man. That’s what I did, I killed 13 people and I’m about to keep killing until they catch me. F*ck it.”
In another video, he says, “The people I’m going to kill today, it’s Easter Sunday, it’s not my first. I’ve got a few people that’s over here off this street … it’s an abandoned house, I kind of lost count. I didn’t keep score. But I’m going to keep score today. I’m bout to have me some fun, I guess.”
He also claims he is going to randomly shoot “Greeks” in the head until he gets caught. Stephens said on his Facebook page he was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
“The vengeance is about to happen,” he says in one video.
4. He Blamed the Shootings on His Ex-Girlfriend & Wrote on Facebook That He Lost All His Money Gambling at Casinos Over the Past Year
On Facebook, Stephens blamed the shootings on a woman, Joy Lane, who appears to have been his girlfriend. He wrote in the caption of a photo with her, “three years I spent with this bitch … I wish we never met.”
Joy Lane sent a statement to CBS News:
We had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart & prayers goes out to the family members of the victim(s). Steve really is a nice guy…he is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children. This is a very difficult time for me and my family Please respect our privacy at this time.
She also posted a message on her now-deleted Facebook page:
The victim’s family told a reporter they do not blame Lane:
Lane has been taken into protective custody by police, authorities said.
In the video showing him shooting an elderly man, he asks him to say his ex-girlfriend’s name, Joy Lane, before shooting him.
“She’s the reason this is about to happen to you,” he says. He recorded a Facebook Live video outside her workplace:
He says in the video Lane “drove him crazy.” They were supposed to be married, he said. He also says in the video “we are all human and we all have breaking points.”
Stephens also says in the video that he went to talk to his mother, but she didn’t care when he told her he was feeling suicidal and homicidal. He said he blames her for driving him to kill along with his ex-girlfriend.
“Didn’t care, it don’t matter, people would come to me with their problems, I would deal with my problems everyday,” Stephens says. “But when it comes to my problems, nobody gives a f*ck. It’s like I’m always the bad guy, no matter what the f*ck I do, people always making it out on me…. Innocent people about to die today. Hopefully I’m going to try and kill as many people as I can and be on death row or whatever the case may be. I just don’t give a f*ck no more. I’m beat, I’m tired, you know.”
His mother, Maggie Green, talked to CNN and said she has spoken to her son since the Facebook posts were made, and that he has never had serious issues in the past. She told CNN she is upset, in disbelief and wants him to stop.”
Green told CNN Stephens told her he is ” “mad with his girlfriend that’s why he is shooting people and he won’t stop until his mother or girlfriend tell him to stop.”
In another post he wrote about issues he’s had over the past year.
“I lost everything I ever had due to gambling,” he wrote. “I do not go into details but I’m a (sic) my breaking point I’m really on some murder shit. … FB you have 4 minutes to tell me why I shouldn’t be on death row!!! I’m dead serious. #teamdeathrow.”
Stephens had been dealing with financial issues for several years. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015, federal court records show. In the filing, Stephens says he owed thousands of dollars to several creditors, including cash advance loan companies, student loan companies and other collection agencies.
You can read the court filing below:
His wages were garnished to pay back some of the debt. The case was closed in 2016, records show.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Stephens was evicted from a suburban Cleveland apartment in January for failure to pay rent. The property management company sued Stephens and began garnishing his wages last month to pay back the $1,800 in rent he owed, the newspaper reports.
In a video, Stephens tells the camera, “I’m 37 and all my f*cking life I’ve just always been a f*cking monster, man. Always had to prove myself, always had to take the butts of people’s jokes.”
A neighbor, Tony Henderson, 55, told The Daily Beast that Stephens was “out there” when he was growing up.
“How can I put this?” he said told the news website. “That kid was not normal as we as normal people know it from the beginning. He was in his early teens when the family moved in there, and I was in my late 20s, but I could see something wasn’t right. He was smart, but some days he seemed OK with talking to people on the street, but on other days he was staring off into space with a blank face. He was very up and down.”
Henderson told The Daily Beast he once saw Stephens take his pet parakeet out of a cage and then slap it hard while it was on his finger, possibly killing the bird.
“Heard he used to torture other pets he had. He was like that from the time I first met him,” Henderson said.
Stephens recently ended his relationship with Lane, he claims in videos.
“I’m killing motherf*ckrs, all because of this bitch… She’s putting me at my pushing point,” he says of his ex-girlfriend. “I was living over there with her, I woke up Friday and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I just left. Here I am, massacring motherf*ckers. Today is the Easter Day Joy Lane massacre.”
In another post he wrote, “tell Jim I’m calling off tomorrow.”
Prior to Stephens’ suicide, Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a press conference they want Stephens to turn himself in.
“If Steve has an issue, he needs to talk to some folks to get things resolved,” Williams said. “I know Steve that you have a relationship with some of our clergy out here in northeast Ohio, I encourage you to give them a call and talk to them and then talk to us and turn yourself in.”
Stephens’ family posted a message on his Twitter account:
On behalf of the entire Stephens family, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Robert Godwin Sr., his family and all of the victims families that have been affected by this tragedy. I have taken the liberty of deleting all of Steve’s tweets, as I do not want any pictures of our family to be associated with this murderer. We absolutely do not condone this type of behavior and this atrocity, therefore we do not consider Steve a part of this family. I would like everyone to refrain from posting pictures of our family in association with Steve, for we do not want our young ones to be burdened by this man. Please respect our privacy.
We do not have information concerning the whereabouts of Steven. If you have any serious inquiries, please DM this account.
Remember to pray for the victims and their families.
The Stephens Family
The previous tweets have been deleted and it is not clear if Stephens posted about the shooting on his Twitter account.
5. Stephens, Who Was a Case Manager at a Children’s Behavioral Health Agency, Had Several Videos on His Facebook Page Showing Him at Gun Ranges
In previous Facebook posts, Stephens, who referred to himself as “The Unpredictable,” talked about going to the gun range and being a good shooter. He posted several videos showing him at the gun range for target practice.
Police said he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Guns were seized from a house where Stephens lived with his ex-girlfriend during a police search, authorities said Monday, but details about how many guns and whether they were registered to Stephens were not released.
You can watch the videos above and below:
It is not clear if he is armed with any weapons besides the handgun seen in the Facebook Live shooting video.
Stephens did not have any criminal record beyond traffic violations. Online records show he has received several traffic violations in Ohio, dating back to 2001.
In a video, Stephens said that he was a case manager at Beech Brook , a children’s behavioral health agency that is based in northeast Ohio.
“For 165 years, Beech Brook has been serving Northeast Ohio’s most vulnerable children. Today, as a leading behavioral health agency, Beech Brook will serve more than 18,000 children and families this year,” the facility’s website says. “Beech Brook touches the lives of children, teens and families through an array of services ranging from prevention, education and early intervention to community-based programming to strengthen and support youth and families.”
He had worked at Beech Brook since 2008, and since 2015 was a vocational specialist with its Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team for youth and young adults. He previously worked as a youth mentor. The agency’s offices were closed Monday as a precaution.
In one of his videos, Stephens blamed his workplace for driving him to kill people.
“We are shocked and horrified like everyone else,” said Nancy Kortemeyer, a spokeswoman for Beech Brook said in a statement. “To think that one of our employees could do this is awful. … We don’t know anything more about it. We Hope and pray that he is arrested as soon as possible and we hope and pray for a resolution quickly.”
Stephens attended the now-closed Myers College near Cleveland, graduating in 2002, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
“I’m texting and Facebook messaging people that I went to school with — the reaction is a collective ‘I can’t believe that’,” Dawn Arrington, a former classmate, told the newspaper. “I’m completely shocked. I’m heartbroken.”
Arrington told the Plain Dealer that Stephens attended a high school on Cleveland’s East Side, the neighborhood where Sunday’s shooting occurred. She said he was a “funny guy, always laughing and joking,” who kept in touch with his college friends.
“It was all jokes and fun,” she told the newspaper. “He was slightly awkward. He was a different kind of guy.”
Stephens was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. His brothers told WJW-TV that he hasn’t been an active member for years and they hadn’t spoken to him in several months.
“On behalf of the Supreme Council and the members of Omega Psi Phi
Fraternity, Incorporated, we lift our sincere and heartfelt prayers and condolences of comfort to the families impacted by the recent shooting in Cleveland, Ohio,” the fraternity said in a statement.
“On this Resurrection Sunday, we know that God is still sovereign and we will continue to lean on Him for strength, courage and direction,” Antonio F. Knox, Sr., 40th Grand Basileus, told the news station.
Police said he has ties to clergy in Ohio and social media posts indicate family members are involved in Christian churches in the Cleveland area. During a press conference, police encouraged Stephens to reach out to those clergy members for help and guidance so that he can turn himself in peacefully.