Major search targets suspect in Facebook murder

2017-04-17 15:23


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Cleveland - The search for a suspected killer who posted gruesome Facebook video of a fatal Cleveland shooting on Monday put authorities in surrounding states on the lookout after police said the man might have left Ohio.

Cleveland police allege 37-year-old Steve Stephens, a case manager at a behavioural health agency, shot a 74-year-old passer-by on Sunday in an apparently random attack.

Aggravated murder

The victim, retired foundry worker Robert Godwin Sr apparently was shot while out on a walk to collect discarded aluminium cans in a plastic shopping bag, something his son said that Godwin did often.

Police said early on Monday that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite the suspect's claim in a separate video on Facebook that he had killed over a dozen people.

Police planned to give an update later on the search for Stephens, who is wanted on a charge of aggravated murder. Authorities have warned people in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to be alert for him and the FBI is assisting in the investigation.

The motive for the shooting wasn't entirely clear from the shaky video, in which Stephens tells Godwin a woman's name and says, "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you." Godwin didn't seem to recognise the woman's name.

The suspect then points a gun at Godwin, who shields his face with the plastic bag.

Physical safety

Facebook said the video was posted after the killing but wasn't 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 removed. Stephens' Facebook page also was 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".

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