April 17 (UPI) — A Cleveland man accused of posting a video online that depicted him killing an elderly man on a city street over the weekend — without any apparent reason — is now the subject of a nationwide manhunt, authorities said Monday.
Ohio police are stepping up efforts to capture the suspect, Steve W. Stephens, who they said fled the area immediately after the shooting and may have also killed others.
Cleveland police began searching for Stephens on Sunday after 74-year-old Robert Godwin, Sr., was abruptly shot in the head while standing on a sidewalk in the city’s Glenville neighborhood. A short time later, according to investigators, Stephens posted a video recording of the homicide to his Facebook page.
Later Sunday, police say Stephens, 37, added another video to the page — in which he laughed about Godwin’s death and claimed he’d also killed a number of other people.
The brazen and random nature of the shooting has unsettled Northeast Ohio as authorities throughout the region try to track down the suspect before he inflicts more harm.
A number of law enforcement agencies are now involved in the case, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Marshals Service.
Officials are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to Stephens’ capture. He is 6 feet 1 inch tall, about 250 pounds, bald and sports a heavy beard. He was last known to be driving a White Ford Fusion with the temporary Ohio license number E363630.
Investigators are looking for a motive for the shooting, which may involve his failure in a recent romantic relationship — with a woman he mentioned in the homicide video. In fact, Stephens even told his unsuspecting victim to say her name right before he was shot, police said.
“She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you,” the gunman said.
Before he approached Godwin, the shooter is heard on the video saying, “I’m about to kill this guy right here. He’s an old dude.”
Police said Godwin was not acquainted with Stephens.
“We have interviewed several people involved in this and I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason for what happened,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said Monday afternoon. “I don’t think there’s anything we can point to specifically to say that this is what sparked this. Only Steve knows that. Hopefully, we can find him soon and then we’ll get to talk to him and find out exactly why he did this.”
Authorities have issued an aggravated murder warrant for Stephens, concerned that he might continue his murderous spree until he is captured or killed.
“I’m about to keep killing until they catch me,” the suspect said on one of the Facebook videos.
In particular, authorities have warned residents in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to be on the lookout for Stephens.
In an interview with CBS News, the woman named in the video called Stephens “a nice guy” and “generous with everyone he knows.”
“I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart and prayers goes out to the family members,” she said in a text message statement to the network. “This is a very difficult time for me and my family. Please respect our privacy at this time.”
Williams also warned people against helping Stephens elude capture, which is a felony.
“We are still asking Steve to turn himself in, but if he doesn’t, we’ll find him,” Williams added. “We are not going to stop until he’s in custody.”