CLEVELAND — The search for a suspected killer who posted a gruesome Facebook video of a fatal Cleveland shooting put authorities in surrounding states on the lookout Monday 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.
The victim, retired foundry worker Robert Godwin Sr., was apparently 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.
His family spoke to Cleveland 19 News reporter Shanice Dunning:
— Shanice (@ShaniceDunning) April 16, 2017
Police said early 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.
Police planned to give an update later Monday morning 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 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.
“This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook.”
— Facebook spokesperson
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 behavioural 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.
Employee badge shown in video
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.