19 Apr 2017

'Facebook killer' found dead after car chase

6:05 am on 19 April 2017

A man suspected of randomly shooting a grandfather on an Ohio street and posting video of the killing to Facebook has taken his own life, police say.

This handout photograph obtained April 17, 2017 courtesy of the Cleveland Police shows Steve Stephens.

A handout photograph of Steve Stephens from the Cleveland police. Photo: AFP/ Cleveland Police

Steve Stephens' car was spotted on Tuesday morning outside a McDonald's in the city of Erie, Pennsylvania.

State police gave chase and the suspect shot himself "as the vehicle was spinning out of control", police said.

Stephens, 37, shot dead Robert Godwin, 74, as he walked home from Easter lunch on Sunday in Cleveland.

The fugitive's mobile phone signal was last tracked on Sunday afternoon to Erie, Pennsylvania, 160km from where Mr Godwin was gunned down.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said "we have closure in regards to the search for Steve Stephens".

Pennsylvania State Police said that they had received a tip-off from an "alert citizen" shortly after 11am on Tuesday (local time).

The suspect's white Ford Fusion car had been spotted in the car park of a McDonald's, near to a local police headquarters.

State police fanned out before locating him, and pursued him for less than two miles before executing a police tactic known as a PIT maneuver intended to disable his vehicle.

"As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the PIT maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head," Pennsylvania state police said in a statement.

During the encounter there were no injuries to members of the public or officers, and Stephens was pronounced dead at the scene, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.

But investigators said they still did not know what motivated Stephens - who worked as a case manager for a children's mental health organisation - to murder.

"We would like to have brought Steve in peacefully and really talk to him to find out exactly why this happened … find out why he did what he did and what drove him to this," Mr Williams said.

Steve Stephens filmed a live video on Facebook.

A screenshot of the Facebook video Steve Stephens uploaded. Photo: Screenshot (fair use) / BBC

Stephens had been added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List as the manhunt was extended from five US states to nationwide.

Police said earlier on Tuesday that authorities had received more than 400 tips, including as far away as Texas.

In other Facebook videos Stephens posted on the day of Mr Godwin's killing, the suspect said he had "just snapped", citing gambling debts, a broken-down relationship and a litany of grudges.

The family of Mr Godwin - a father of 10 and grandfather of 14 - said on Monday they forgave the suspected killer.

His daughter, Tonya Godwin-Baines, had urged Stephens to surrender.

"Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer," she told Cleveland TV station WJW. "We want to wrap our arms around him."

"I forgive you and love you, but most importantly, God loves you. God can heal your mind and save your soul."

The victim's son, Robert Godwin Jr, said: "Steve, I forgive you... I'm not happy what you did, but I forgive you."

Cleveland officials had announced a reward of up to $US50,000 for information leading to the suspect's arrest.

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

Justin Osofsky, Facebook's vice-president of global operations, said the first complaint made about the video showing the killing came nearly two hours after it was posted.

But he said "we know we need to do better".