Manhunt for Cleveland man whom police say shot stranger dead in Facebook...

Manhunt for Cleveland man whom police say shot stranger dead in Facebook video expands across U.S.

Published
Steve Stephens, left, posted on Facebook a video showing him fatally shooting Robert Godwin Sr., 74, on Easter Sunday, right. Credit: (Facebook/Steve Stephens)

UPDATED 7 P.M. EDT MONDAY

WASHINGTON – The intense manhunt has expanded across the nation Monday afternoon for a suspect whom Cleveland police say shot dead a great-grandfather whom he did not know on Easter Sunday because he was upset with his ex-girlfriend, then posted a video of the killing on Facebook.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams announced Monday afternoon at a news conference that a $50,000 reward is being offered by authorities and Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest of Steve Stephens.

“Our reach is now basically all over this country … this is what we would consider a nationwide search,” Williams said.

He urged Stephens to turn himself in, or to call a friend or relative.

Police said Stephens, 37, taped the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, after stopping him randomly on a street at about 2 p.m. EDT Sunday, then put the video on Facebook.

Stephens said on Facebook that he had committed an “Easter day slaughter” but the police chief said no other victims have been found.

“We’re still asking Steve to turn himself in but if he doesn’t, we’ll find him,” Williams said confidently at a news conference Monday morning. “We’re not going to stop until he’s in custody.”

“Last night officers searched dozens of locations based on leads, based on investigative information from our team out there that they’ve uncovered, to no avail.”

“We are asking the public to remain vigilant. We’re asking you to go about your day but be careful.”

“We don’t want people to panic,” he added.

Early on Monday, police had tweeted that an aggravated murder warrant had been issued for Stephens and had warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan as well as Ohio to be on alert.

Williams said friends and family of Stephens have been cooperative. He warned that it was a felony to aid Stephens in avoiding arrest.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said at the morning news conference that “all federal, state and local partners are working side-by-side to do everything humanly possible to find Mr. Stephens.”

Anthony said “obviously this individual is armed and dangerous, and quite frankly at this point he could be a lot of places.

“He could be nearby, he could be far away, or anywhere in between.”

He urged people to phone in any tips about Stephens’ whereabouts to 800-CALL-FBI. Police said anyone who spots Stephens should call 911.

“The goal here is to find Mr. Stephens before any other crimes are committed,” Anthony said.

The mayor urged Stephens to turn himself in and not to “do any more harm to anybody.”

Meanwhile, Stephens’ employer, Beach Brook, a children’s mental health center in Cleveland, said its offices are closed on Monday “out of concerns for the safety of our staff, clients, and other visitors to our sites.”

In a statement Beach Brook said Stephens has been employed with the organization since 2008.

“He has been working as a vocational specialist for our Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team for youth and young adults. since April of 2015. Prior to that, he had worked as a youth mentor,” the statement said.

Stephens is described as a 6-foot, 1-inch African-American man who weighs 244 pounds and has a bald head and full beard. He was last seen wearing a dark blue and gray or black striped polo shirt. He was reported to be driving a white, late-model Ford Fusion with temporary Ohio tags.

He has a concealed carry permit and has posted Facebook videos of himself shooting guns.

Robert Godwin, 74, a father of nine, is pictured with daughter Debbie Godwin. (credit: Debbie Godwin)

In the shaky Facebook video, Stephens is driving his car then pulls over and appears to randomly approach Godwin, who was walking on a sidewalk carrying a plastic bag.

“Find me somebody I’m about to kill, I’m gonna kill this guy right here,” Stephens says as he gets out of his car. “The older dude.” He walks up to Godwin and asks him to “do me a favor” by saying “Joy Lane,” the name of Stephens’ ex-girlfriend. Stephens adds, “Joy Lane — she’s the reason this is about to happen to you.”

Stephens then asks Godwin his age, and a puzzled Godwin says he doesn’t know Joy Lane. Stephens then points the gun at Godwin’s head and pulls the trigger, as Godwin tries to shield his head with the plastic bag. Godwin falls to the ground and blood can be seen on the sidewalk.

Stephens gets back into his car and drives off.

The video was online for about three hours before Facebook removed it.

“This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook,” the company said in a statement.

Godwin’s family has urged people to not post or share the video. The family also warned the public that several GoFundMe accounts have already been set up in the victim’s name but that none are legitimate and people should not donate.

Authorities on Sunday said Stephens posted on Facebook that he had “lost everything” to gambling.

The police chief said Stephens’ girlfriend is safe.

According to Joy Lane’s LinkedIn page, she previously worked as a case manager and therapist at Beech Brook – Stephens’ employer, has been employed as a clinical supervisor for Murtis Taylor Human Services System for the past nine months, and has a master of science degree from Case Western Reserve University.

Lane told CBS News in a text message: “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.”

Cleveland.com reported that Robert Godwin Jr. said his father was a retired foundry worker who had nine children, 14 grandchildren and multiple great-grandchildren. Godwin said his father was out looking for aluminum cans for recycling when Stephens approached him.

  • Talk Media News Daily Digest

  • NO COMMENTS

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *