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Cleveland Tries to Make Sense of a Senseless Killing Broadcast on Social Media

Calvin Williams at the press conference announcing Steve Stephens death

The three-day search for Steve Stephens ended this  morning with Stephens allegedly killing himself after a brief pursuit by Pennsylvania State Police near Erie, Pa.. Stephens was accused of randomly shooting and killing an elderly Cleveland man on Easter Sunday and posting the gruesome video on Facebook. His post included a rambling statement about his gambling debts and other ways his life was falling apart. 

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his thoughts are with the family of 74-year-old Robert Godwin, the man killed Sunday afternoon on Cleveland’s east side. 

Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said the case offers lessons on the power of social media and the harm it can do. 

“This is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period. And our kids, although they should not have seen this, a lot probably have. They need to take this as a lesson. We can’t do this in this country. We just can’t do it.”

The video was available for about 20 minutes after it was first reported to Facebook and about two hours after the killing. Zuckerberg said Facebook is launching a review for reporting harmful content.

Meanwhile, the social services agency that employed Stephens says his suicide brings both relief and sadness.

Stephens worked at Beech Brook, an agency in suburban Cleveland that deals with vulnerable young people. The agency says that "every suicide is a tragedy" but that Stephens' death eliminates the community's fear that he might kill again. 

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the Easter Sunday killing has received the attention it deserves because Godwin's was an innocent life taken for no reason. But he said it also should be a catalyst to try to resolve other violent crime in the city.

Jackson on violence

“Ultimately I believe one the things that this has taught us is we cannot resolve the underlying issues of violence, particularly gun violence, if we do not function and operate and have the same compassion and commitment that we’ve shown here.”

Associated Press contributed to this story.