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September 23, 2017

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Facebook killer takes own life as cops close in

ERIE, Pennsylvania -- The man who randomly gunned down a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook killed himself Tuesday during a police chase in Pennsylvania that began when a McDonald's drive-thru attendant recognized him.

It marked a violent end to the nearly 48-hour multistate manhunt for Steve Stephens, whose case brought another round of criticism down on Facebook over how responsibly it polices objectionable material posted by users.

Acting on a tip from the McDonald's, Pennsylvania state troopers spotted Stephens leaving the restaurant in Erie and went after him, bumping his car to try to get it to stop, authorities said. He shot himself in the head after the car spun out of control and came to a stop, police said.

"This started with one tragedy and ended with another person taking their own life," said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams. "We would have liked to have brought Steve in peacefully and really talked to him about why this happened."

Stephens, a 37-year-old job counselor who worked with young people, was wanted on murder charges in the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, a former foundry worker and father of 10 who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was shot.

The chilling video was on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down. It was just the latest instance of crime footage being shared on social media.

At a Silicon Valley conference Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly addressed the Cleveland case, saying Facebook has "a lot of work to do" and "we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this."

Police would not speculate on what was behind the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, Stephens talked about losing everything he had to gambling and having trouble with his girlfriend. He said he "just snapped."

One of Godwin's daughters, Debbie Godwin, said she wished Stephens had been captured.

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