US launches Nationwide Manhunt for alleged Facebook Killer

Facebook Killer Suspect Steve Stephens
Late Steve Stephens claimed to have killed more than a dozen others and was looking for victims in a video posted on Facebook (FACEBOOK)

A nationwide manhunt is under way in the US for the suspect who shot dead a grandfather on the street apparently at random and posted the footage on Facebook.

The suspect, Steve Stephens, said in another video post that he had killed 13 people and would kill more.

He shot dead 74-year-old Robert Godwin in Ohio as the victim walked home from Easter lunch on Sunday afternoon.

Police in Cleveland, Ohio working on the case with help from investigators at the FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), have offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of Steve Stephens, the accused shooter.

Stephens, 37, of Cleveland, Ohio, who was described as a black male, 6ft 1in (1.86m) and 244lb (110kg), armed and dangerous, was also placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, a designation officials hope will help raise public awareness about the case.

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The manhunt spread across the region within a few hours after the homicide, with authorities on the alert for Stephens in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan. By midday Monday, the search for the accused murderer had spread nationwide.

“Our reach now is basically all over this country,” Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams said at a news conference.

“This is what we would consider a national search.”

Stephens is accused of fatally shooting Robert Godwin Sr, 74, who was walking home from Easter dinner on Sunday afternoon, when he was apparently picked out at random.

According to a timeline of events created by police and Facebook, Stephens posted a video on Sunday afternoon saying he intended to kill, and followed up two minutes later with video of the shooting.

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Facebook has launched a review of its procedures after criticism that the footage stayed on the site for hours.

In that second video, Godwin is shown with a gun to his head and then falling to the ground after Stephens fires a shot.

In a third video 11 minutes later, streamed live from Stephens’s car, he says he intends to kill others.

“I killed 13, so I’m working on 14 as we speak,” Stephens said. “I’m just driving around hitting motherfuckers, man. I just snapped man, fuck.”

So far, however, police say they are aware of only one shooting victim.

The incident was the latest disturbing crime captured on Facebook video, including the alleged gang rape of a 15-year-old girl, two fatal shootings, and the kidnapping and torture of a disabled 18-year-old man.

In this instance, Facebook took down Stephens’s videos and disabled his account about two hours after he first started uploading.

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Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations for the social media giant, acknowledged in a company blog post, that the delay was too long.

“We know we need to do better,” Osofsky said.

“As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible,” he said.

Osofsky said Facebook received the first report about the video depicting the murder more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted.

“We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended,” he added.

BBC/AFP

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