CLEVELAND (CBSNewYork/AP) — The search for a suspected killer who posted a gruesome Facebook video of a fatal Cleveland shooting put authorities in surrounding states on the lookout Monday after police said the man might have left Ohio.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, billboards were mounted Monday evening on interstates near Cleveland, along with highway message boards and an FBI most wanted poster. They all asked drivers to keep an eye out for the white Ford Focus with temporary Ohio plates that was driven by murder suspect Steve Stephens.
In an afternoon news conference, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said there is a $50,000 reward being offered in connection with information that leads to Stephens’ capture.
Stephens, 37, is wanted on a charge of aggravated murder in the death of Robert Godwin Sr.
While balloons and candles marked the murder scene Monday night, police searched several locations connected to Stephens and confiscated weapons.
Williams said they are receiving dozens and dozens of tips in connection to Stephens’ whereabouts, but said their reach is basically the entire country.
“One of our citizens here in the city, minding his own business, going about his day on Easter — I mean, it’s personal,” Williams said.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the search for Stevens now spans five states – New York among them. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan are also involved in the search.
Investigators picked up a “ping” from Stephens’ cellphone Sunday night in Erie, Pennsylvania, but have been unable to detect a signal since then, a law enforcement source told CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton.
The latest tips led police to Philadelphia on Monday. Nine schools were locked down in the City of Brotherly Love, a more than six-hour drive from Cleveland, as police investigated possible sightings of Stephens.
The sightings turned out to be false. Williams said there was no truth to Stephens being in Philly.
Someone in New York City also thought they spotted Stephens Monday night, but the NYPD said it definitely was not he.
Earlier, authorities warned people in the five aforementioned states to be on alert for Stephens, who they said may have traveled out of state and is still thought to be driving a white Ford Fusion with a temporary tag E363630.
Cleveland Police released a photo of the car late Monday afternoon.
“We know Steve is still out there someplace,” Williams said Monday. “We’re still asking Steve to turn himself in. But if he doesn’t, we’ll find him.”
Williams said detectives talked with Stephens by cellphone Sunday after he shot Godwin, but haven’t had contact since.
“We don’t know his location so we’re asking people definitely in the neighboring states, if you see that vehicle or see him to give us a call,” Williams said.
“We’re going to make this individual’s world very, very small,” said U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott.
In the Facebook video posted on Sunday, Stephens is seen behind the wheel of his vehicle as he motivates himself for the kill. He casually gets out of his car and randomly approaches Godwin – asking him to say the name of his ex-girlfriend, Joy Lane.
Godwin: “Joy Lane?”
Stephens: “Yeah. She’s the reason this is about to happen to you. How old are you?”
Godwin: “I don’t know nobody by that name!”
The suspect then pointed a gun at Godwin, who shielded his face with the plastic bag.
Lane, the woman Stephens mentioned, said in a text to CBS that “we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened.”
She also said Stephens was “a nice guy” who was generous to everyone and was “kind and loving” to her and her children.
But Stephens shot Godwin at point blank range, calmly got back into his car and drove away. He then ranted live on Facebook as he drove around – at one point making claims that Godwin was not his first victim and that his killing spree was not over.
“I killed 13 people and I’m going to keep killing until they catch me,” Godwin says in the video.
Police said they have not verified any other shootings or deaths.
Meanwhile, Godwin’s family said they could not make sense of the madness that took their loved one away.
“He’s a good guy; give you the shirt off his back,” said Robert Godwin Jr.
There were tears and anguish for Godwin at a vigil in Cleveland on Monday night.
“I just want to know, why would he do that to him?” said Godwin’s girlfriend, Angela Small.
“My heart is hurting right now. That man took somebody very, very precious to me,” Small continued. “My kids are 8 and 11. They don’t have a father no more.”
Facebook said the video was posted after the killing but wasn’t broadcast on Facebook Live as police initially indicated. The suspect did go live on the social media site at another point Sunday.
The video of the killing was on Facebook for about three hours before it was taken down. Stephens’ Facebook page also was eventually removed.
“This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook,” the company said. “We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety.”
Stephens worked at Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency headquartered in Pepper Pike, near Cleveland. He helped young people develop job skills and find employment, said Beech Brook spokeswoman Nancy Kortemeyer.
An extensive background check before he was hired turned up nothing worrisome, she said.
“We just hope Mr. Stephens is apprehended as quickly as possible so that no one else is injured,” she said.
In one of the videos, Stephens could be seen holding up his employee identification and said: “I’m killing with my Beech Brook badge on, too.”
Stephens also mentioned his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, in one of his Facebook posts. The fraternity issued a statement Sunday night.
“On behalf of the Supreme Council and the members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, we lift our sincere and heartfelt prayers and condolences of comfort to the families impacted by the recent shooting in Cleveland, Ohio,” it said.
Police said Stephens is 6’1″ tall, 244 pounds and is bald with a full beard. He was last seen wearing a dark blue and grey or a black striped polo shirt.
Investigators said he should be considered armed and dangerous. If seen, police say call 911 but do not approach.
“There are a lot of people that want to talk to him; want to get this resolved peacefully,” Chief Williams said. “So Steve if you’re out there listening, call someone — whether it’s a friends of family member or pastor.”
The FBI said it was assisting in the investigation.
“This individual is armed and dangerous and at this point, quite frankly, he could be a lot of places,” said FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony. “He could be nearby. He could be far away – anywhere in between.”
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-call FBI.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)