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Multi-state search targets suspect in Facebook video murder

Published: Monday, April 17, 2017 11:06 a.m. CDT

CLEVELAND (AP) — Authorities in several states were on the lookout Monday for a behavioral health case manager who posted gruesome Facebook video of himself randomly shooting a Cleveland retiree who was collecting discarded cans.

Cleveland police allege 37-year-old Steve Stephens fatally shot a 74-year-old passer-by on Sunday in an apparently random attack.

While authorities said Stephens might have left Ohio, the city’s police chief added that his last known location was at the site of the shooting Sunday afternoon and that detectives spoke with the suspect by cellphone.

Officers have searched dozens of places around the city, said Chief Calvin Williams, who warned residents to be careful as the go about their day.

“He could be a lot of places,” said Stephen Anthony, the FBI’s top agent in Cleveland. “He could be nearby. He could be far away or anywhere in between.”

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

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

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

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 recognize the woman’s name.

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

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 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.”

The victim’s son, Robert Godwin Jr., told Cleveland.com that he couldn’t bring himself to watch the video but learned about it from others.

“I don’t really want to see it,” he said.

In the separate video, authorities said Stephens claimed to have killed more than a dozen other people.

“Like I said, I killed 13, so I’m working on 14 as we speak,” Stephens said.

Police have not verified any other shootings or deaths, Police Chief Calvin Williams said.

Police said they have talked with family and friends of Stephens, who is a case manager at Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency headquartered in Pepper Pike, near Cleveland.

Beech Brook spokeswoman Nancy Kortemeyer said Sunday that news of the shooting shocked and horrified the agency.

“We are hoping that the Cleveland police will be able to apprehend Mr. Stephens as soon as possible and before anyone else is injured,” Kortemeyer said in a statement.

In one of the videos, Stephens can be seen holding up his Beech Brook employee identification badge.

“I’m killing with my Beech Brook badge on too,” he says.

Stephens also mentioned his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, in one of his Facebook posts. The fraternity issued a statement Sunday night offering “our sincere and heartfelt prayers and condolences of comfort to the families” affected by the shooting.

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