COMPLETE COVERAGE: Facebook Murder Suspect Takes His Own Life After Police Pursuit in Erie
Police found the Facebook murder suspect dead in his car in the city of Erie after a chase with Pennsylvania State Police Tuesday.
State Police said Steve Stephens died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside his vehicle near Roger Young Park and the former Burton School at Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue around 11:15 a.m.
It started when an police received a tip about a white Ford Fusion in the drive-through at the Harborcreek McDonald's on Buffalo Road. Stephens was driving a vehicle with the same description and temporary license plates, Cleveland police said Sunday.
Troopers initiated a pursuit, which proceeded west on Buffalo Road through Wesleyville toward the City of Erie, according to a news release. Wesleyville Police joined the pursuit.
Stephens stopped the car about one mile from the start of the pursuit. When troopers stopped and got out of their patrol vehicle, Stephens took off west on Buffalo Road, State Police said.
The pursuit continued about another mile until troopers performed a maneuver to stop the vehicle in the City of Erie near Downing Avenue, according to troopers. It brought the vehicle to a stop, but Stephens used a handgun to take his own life at that time, investigators said.
Police blocked off the area with crime scene tape late Tuesday morning. The car was towed from the scene later in the afternoon.
Investigators are executing search warrants on the vehicle and its contents.
State Police said they cannot determine if Stephens had been in the Erie but are continuing to investigate why the suspect came to the area and cooperate with Cleveland Police. This comes after several reports surfaced early Monday that a cell phone ping placed Stephens in the Erie area.
"Although this was not the ideal outcome, we are pleased no one from the community was harmed, including members of law enforcement," State Police said Tuesday afternoon. It also extended condolences the family of the man police say Stephens killed on the video posted to Facebook.
State Police also thanked the public for their diligence and their tips over the last couple of days.
"The public was instrumental in bringing this investigation to a successful conclusion," State Police said in the news release.
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also shared a statement on the Pennsylvania State Police’s pursuit of Steve Stephens:
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. 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.
Stephens is suspected of killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin on Sunday in a residential area east of Cleveland, police said.
Police said Sunday night Stephens "may be out of state at this time," and called on residents in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to be vigilant.
"He is considered armed and dangerous, so we want people to be careful out there," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters.
The investigation and search for Stephens began Sunday after several people from outside the Cleveland area reported an alarming Facebook post, police union president Steve Loomis said
Stephens uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing a gun pointed at an unidentified man's head. The gun is fired, the man recoils and falls to the ground.
The video was posted around 2 p.m. Sunday. Facebook later disabled access to it.
"We do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. 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," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
Stephens claimed on Facebook that he committed multiple homicides, but police said they have no knowledge of other victims.