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ERIE, Penn. - Moments before shooting and killing himself during a police chase, accused “Facebook killer” Steve Stephens got hungry.
Stephens, 37, of Cleveland, Ohio, went through a McDonald’s drive-thru in Erie, Pennsylvania, where a 20-piece order of McNuggets and some fries proved to be his undoing, Cleveland 19 News reported.
Henry Sayers, a manager at the McDonald’s where Stephens ordered his last meal, told the news station that Stephens appeared to be just another customer -- until an alert employee recognized him from TV news bulletins about the nationwide manhunt for the accused killer. Sayers said he and his employees were not 100 percent sure the man was Stephens, but that they knew the wanted man might be in the area because police had traced a “ping” from his cellphone to the Erie area.
Employees tried to stall Stephens, saying they were waiting on his fries to cook, while the drive-thru worker who recognized him called 911, Cleveland 19 News reported.
Stephens, who may have sensed that he had been recognized, told them he was in a hurry.
“I am pretty sure he figured out that we were on to him,” Thomas DuCharme Jr., owner of the McDonald’s, told GoErie.com. “He didn’t want to wait for his fries.”
Sayers told Cleveland 19 News that Stephens drove off without the fries, taking a right onto the street in front of the restaurant. State police troopers pulled in behind him, lights flashing, and the chase began.
It ended about two miles later, when troopers attempted a PIT maneuver to stop the Ford Focus that Stephens was driving, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.
“As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the PIT maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head,” troopers said in a news release.
Stephens was pronounced dead at the scene. According to GoErie.com, the grounds of a nearby former elementary school were blocked off after the shooting and crash.
Officials were not immediately clear on what brought Stephens to Erie.
Stephens was on the run following the on-camera Easter Sunday slaying of an elderly stranger, footage of which Stephens posted on Facebook. In the video, which was removed from the social media network a few hours after the killing, the man behind the camera could be heard saying that he had found someone to kill.
“Found me somebody I’m about to kill,” said the man, who police identified as Stephens. “I’m going to kill this guy right here. He’s an old dude, too.”
He approached Robert Godwin Sr., 74, as he walked on a sidewalk and asked him for a favor. He asked Godwin to say the name Joy Lane, repeating it when Godwin did not seem to understand him the first time.
“She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you,” Stephens told Godwin, asking how old he was.
“Aw man, look, I don’t know nobody by that name,” Godwin told Stephens as Stephens lifted the gun, which could be seen in the video frame. As the older man tried to shield himself with a plastic bag he was carrying, Stephens shot him once in the head.
Godwin fell to the sidewalk, where Stephens left him bleeding. After the shooting, Stephens spoke aloud in a message to Lane, telling her that the (expletive) was dead because of her.
Lane issued a statement to CBS News following the shooting:
“We had been in a relationship for several years,” Lane wrote. “I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart and prayers goes out to the family members of the victim(s). Steve really is a nice guy. He is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children. This is a very difficult time for me and my family. Please respect our privacy at this time.”
In another video Stephens posted online, he said that Lane, along with job stress and his mother, were the reasons he wanted to “try to kill as many people as he (could).”
Stephens worked for Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency. In the second video, he sat in his car outside Lane’s workplace and talked about the issues that he said caused him to lose everything.
“People will come to me with their problems. I’m a case manager at Beech Brook. I deal with people’s problems every day, but when it comes to my (expletive), nobody gives a (expletive). It’s like I’m always the bad guy.”
He said he tried the day before to tell his mother he was suicidal and wanted to kill people, but that she “didn’t care.”
He also claimed in the video that he had killed before, but law enforcement officials have not been able to corroborate those claims.