Killing of Robert Godwin

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Killing of Robert Godwin Sr.
LocationEast 93rd Street
Glenville, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
DateApril 16, 2017
2:01 p.m. (killing of Godwin)
April 18, 2017 (suicide of Stephens) (EDT)
Attack type
Murder-suicide, senicide, shooting
Weapons.45-caliber Glock 30S
Deaths2 (Godwin and the perpetrator)
VictimRobert Lee Godwin
PerpetratorSteve William Stephens
MotiveResentment towards ex-girlfriend
ChargesAggravated murder (perpetrator died before being apprehended)

On April 16, 2017, 74-year-old Robert Lee Godwin Sr. (September 7, 1942 – April 16, 2017)[1] was shot and killed with a firearm while walking in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, United States. The perpetrator, identified as 37-year-old Steve Stephens, posted a cellphone video of the shooting on his Facebook account, leading many media outlets, both during the manhunt and afterward, to dub Stephens the "Facebook killer".[2][3][4] A warrant was issued for Stephens for aggravated murder. Two days later, he died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound when cornered by police in Erie County, Pennsylvania.[4]


The shooting happened at around 2:00 p.m. EDT on April 16, 2017 (Easter Sunday), in the 600 block of East 93rd Street in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. Godwin, while walking around the streets, was carrying a bag to collect littered cans. Stephens uploaded a video of the event.[5][6] Seconds before the shooting, Stephens exited his car, approached the victim and then asked Godwin to, "say Joy Lane", the name of a woman with whom Stephens had been in a romantic relationship. Stephens then said "She's the reason why this is about to happen to you", before fatally shooting Godwin, who fell to the ground after he was shot.[7] Facebook said the video was uploaded to the website after the fact, not livestreamed as initially reported.[8] In other Facebook posts, Stephens claimed responsibility for 13 murders, but police said they were not aware of any other victims.[6]


A search for Stephens began soon after the shooting, prompting lockdowns at a number of locations, including Cleveland State University.[9] Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters that detectives talked with Stephens by cellphone shortly after the shooting, but had no further contact with him since that time.[10] The manhunt expanded to other states on the morning of April 17. Residents in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan were asked to be on alert,[11] and a US$50,000 reward was offered for information leading to Stephens' arrest on a charge of aggravated murder.[12][13] The FBI also aided the Cleveland Police Department.[14][15]

At 11:10 a.m. on April 18, Stephens pulled into the drive-through lane of a McDonald's restaurant in Harborcreek Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania, 100 miles (160 km) from the location of the shooting. An employee recognized Stephens from news reports and, after verifying with fellow employees, provided Stephens with part of his order, but stalled him by stating that his fries were still cooking. During this time police were called to the restaurant. Stephens, wary, left without his fries.[16]

As Stephens pulled out of the restaurant, state police gave chase heading westbound through Wesleyville, Pennsylvania. Stephens made it to the corner of Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue in the city of Erie, where Pennsylvania State Police successfully executed a tactical maneuver to bring the car to a stop. As police approached Stephens' car, he shot himself in the head, killing him instantly.[17][18]


Steve Stephens
Steve William Stephens

(1979-12-10)December 10, 1979[19]
DiedApril 18, 2017(2017-04-18) (aged 37)
Cause of deathSuicide by gunshot wound
Other names"Facebook killer"
OccupationVocational specialist[21]
Criminal statusDeceased
Criminal chargeAggravated murder (died before being apprehended)
DateApril 16, 2017
Killed1 confirmed (Robert Godwin Sr.)
13 self-claimed

Steve William Stephens (December 10, 1979 – April 18, 2017) worked as a vocational specialist at Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency for children and families. He was wearing his work ID badge and repeatedly mentioned Beech Brook in multiple videos on the day of the murder.[22] Police confirmed there was no known connection between Godwin and Stephens prior to the shooting and that Godwin was selected at random. Stephens' mother was quoted as having told authorities that Stephens told her by phone he was "shooting people" because he was "mad with his girlfriend" of about three years, who was confirmed to be safe and was cooperating with investigators at the time.[18]

Criticism of Facebook[edit]

The graphic video of Godwin's killing remained accessible to the public on Stephens' Facebook page for more than two hours on April 16 before it was removed by Facebook, according to a timeline shared by the company. The delay generated renewed criticism of Facebook over its handling of offensive content and, in particular, public posts of video and other content related to violent crimes.[23][24] "We have a lot of work [to do], and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening", Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his April 18 keynote address at F8, Facebook's annual developers' conference. "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr.," Zuckerberg added.[25]

On May 3, 2017, Facebook announced that it was adding additional personnel to its "global community operations" team to proactively screen Facebook Live content for violent and other inappropriate content. The new reviewers "will also help us get better at removing things we don't allow on Facebook like hate speech and child exploitation", Zuckerberg said.[26]


On September 2, 2017, a section of East 146th Street in Cleveland (where Godwin lived most of his adult life) was renamed "Robert Godwin Sr. Way" as a posthumous honor of his life and legacy in the neighborhood.[27]


  1. ^ "Robert Lee Godwin, Sr (1942-2017) - Find A Grave Memorial". Find a Grave. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Householder, Mike; Gillispie, Mark (April 18, 2017). "Facebook killer takes his own life as the police close in". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2017-04-21. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
  3. ^ Selvi, Avi (April 20, 2017). "The 'Facebook killer' is dead — but the hate against his ex-girlfriend lives on". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
  4. ^ a b Pérez-Peña, Richard (April 18, 2017). "Hunt for Facebook Killer Ends With McDonald's Sighting and a Suicide". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-07-28. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  5. ^ "Cleveland Police on Twitter". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Homicide Suspect Update Steve Stephens". Cleveland Division of Police. April 16, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-04-17. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Ganim, Sara (2015-09-01). "Cleveland: Search for suspect in Facebook homicide video widens". Archived from the original on 2017-04-18. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  8. ^ "Facebook: Killing uploaded, not broadcast live". Associated Press. April 17, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  9. ^ "Cleveland State University removes shelter in place warning". WKYC. April 16, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  10. ^ "Steve Stephens, Facebook killing suspect, was in contact with cops, chief says". CBS News. April 17, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-04-17. Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  11. ^ "Man in Cleveland streams murder live on Facebook". BNO News. April 17, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-04-16. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  12. ^ "Aggravated Murder Warrant Issued for Steve Stephens, BM 37". 17 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  13. ^ Sara Ganim; Nicole Chavez; Eliott C. McLaughlin. "Search for suspect in Facebook homicide video goes nationwide". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  14. ^ "FBI: Suspect in Cleveland Facebook killing 'could be a lot of places'". 17 April 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  15. ^ "STEVE W. STEPHENS". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  16. ^ Sheth, Sonam (April 18, 2017). "Police tracked down the 'Facebook killer' after McDonald's employees held up his french fry order". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2017-04-19. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  17. ^ a b "WCPO on Twitter". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  18. ^ a b Darran Simon, Holly Yan and Gary Tuchman (18 April 2017). "Cleveland murder suspect Steve Stephens kills himself after pursuit". CNN. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  19. ^ "Steve W. Stephens". FBI. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  20. ^ Ohio Birth Index, 1908-2011
  21. ^ "Steve Stephens worked with troubled youth for nearly a decade before Cleveland Facebook killing". April 16, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-04-20. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  22. ^ "Employer of man wanted in Cleveland murder on Facebook: 'We were shocked'". WJW. April 16, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-04-17. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  23. ^ Dreyfuss, Emily (April 16, 2017). "Facebook Streams a Murder, and Must Now Face Itself". Archived from the original on 2017-04-18. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  24. ^ Fiegerman, Seth (17 April 2017). "Facebook on murder video: 'We know we need to do better'". CNN. Archived from the original on 2017-04-18. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  25. ^ "'We have a lot more to do': Mark Zuckerberg addresses Cleveland murder video posted on Facebook". FOX8 Cleveland. April 18, 2017.
  26. ^ Fiegerman, Seth (3 May 2017). "Facebook adding 3,000 reviewers to combat violent videos". CNNMoney.
  27. ^ Jankowski, Jonathan (2 September 2017). "Cleveland names street after Facebook murder victim". Cleveland 19. Raycom Media. Archived from the original on 2018-08-29. Retrieved 29 August 2018.

41°32′23″N 81°37′29″W / 41.5397473°N 81.6247108°W / 41.5397473; -81.6247108