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Authorities Widen Manhunt For Suspect In Facebook Video Killing

18/04/2017 4:50 AM AEST | Updated 18/04/2017 6:11 AM AEST

Authorities on Monday expanded the search for an Ohio man suspected of recording the shooting death of a Cleveland man and sharing the video on Facebook. 

Steve Stephens, 37, is wanted for aggravated murder in the Sunday killing of Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old Cleveland man who was walking home from a family Easter gathering around 2 p.m. when police said Stephens shot him for no apparent reason. The manhunt became a national search on Monday.

 “All federal, state and local partners are working side by side to do everything humanly possible to find Mr. Stephens,” Stephen Anthony, the FBI special agent in charge of the Cleveland office, said at a news conference Monday. “Obviously, this individual is armed and dangerous.” 

An intense manhunt, so far, has been fruitless. 

“Quite frankly at this point, he could be a lot of places,” Anthony said. “He could be nearby, he could be far away, anywhere in between.” 

This is now a national search for Steve. We will leave no stone unturned.” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams

Stephens was last seen where police say he shot Godwin, on the city’s northeast side, just north of I-90. 

Anthony said “any and all resources” were being used in the search, not only in Cleveland, but throughout the U.S.

Pete Elliott, of the U.S. Marshals Service, said law enforcement pressure was likely to lead to Stephens’ capture.

“We’re going to make this individual’s world very, very, very small,” Elliot said.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams appealed to Stephens directly, asking him to surrender for a peaceful conclusion during a news conference Monday afternoon.

“This is now a national search for Steve. We will leave no stone unturned,” Williams said. 

Federal authorities offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Stephens’ arrest. 

Williams said Monday morning that officers searched dozens of locations Sunday night, based on multiple leads, but found nothing. He urged people to call local or federal tip lines if they see Stephens. 

“If you’re helping Steve or think you’re helping Steve, you’re really not,” Williams added. “The only way to help him is to give him the information or to talk him or convince him into turning himself in.”

Williams said reports of sightings in Ohio and Pennsylvania were false. There have been no credible sightings since the shooting, the chief said.

Stephens had no criminal record, and authorities said there’s no clear motive for what prompted him to open fire on a man he didn’t appear to know. In the video posted to Stephens’ Facebook page, since removed, he complains about a woman as he’s driving in his car. When he spots Godwin, he stops, gets out and talks with him briefly, mentioning the woman’s name. Then he shoots. Godwin died at the scene. 

In other Facebook messages on his since-removed page, Stephens claimed he had previously killed other people. Police said the boast was unverified and they knew of no additional victims. 

 

Godwin’s family described him as a father of nine who had 14 grandchildren and was the type of man to “give you the shirt off his back.” 

Relatives also said Godwin taught the power of forgiveness, so they would extend mercy to the accused killer.

“We forgive him. We forgive him because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what daddy taught us,” Tonya Godwin-Baines, one of Godwin’s daughters, told Cleveland’s Fox 8 News.

“Mr. Stephens, we forgive you, but we’re asking you to turn yourself in, please,” Godwin-Baines said through tears.  

The family acknowledged the public interest in Godwin’s death and asked people not to share the video of the killing. They also noted they have not authorized any GoFundMe or other crowd-funding accounts that have been set up in Godwin’s name.

Chief Williams said Godwin’s family plans to announce their own fundraiser via the police. 

This article has been updated to include details of the expanded search and comments from Tonya Godwin-Baines.

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