Facebook reviewing how it handles violent videos after Cleveland killing

By James Law

Facebook is reviewing how it handles violent videos and other objectionable material, saying it needs to do better after a video of a killing in Cleveland remained on its service for more than two hours.

"We prioritise reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster," Justin Osofsky, Facebook's vice-president for global operations and media partnerships, said in a blog post.

"We prioritise reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster," Osofsky said.

Authorities searching multiple states for a suspect in the deadly shooting of a Cleveland man say they have no idea what led up to what they say appears to be a random shooting.

Cleveland's police chief said today that only Steve Stephens knows the answer to what set him off.

"Only Steve knows that," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said.

Police say the 37-year-old Stephens shot a Cleveland retiree picking up aluminum cans yesterday and then posted a video of the killing on Facebook.

In the video, Stephens names a woman and tells the victim, Robert Godwin, that "she's the reason that this is about to happen to you".

Authorities say Stephens is considered armed and dangerous and could be anywhere.

Williams says authorities have already searched every location Stephens has been associated with in the Cleveland area.

Authorities posted a US$50,000 reward for Stephens' capture.

"He could be nearby. He could be far away or anywhere in between," FBI agent Stephen Anthony said.

Law enforcement officials said his cellphone signal was last detected yesterday in Erie, Pennsylvania, about 160km east of Cleveland.

Police reported getting dozens and dozens of tips, and nine schools in Philadelphia were locked down today while authorities investigated possible sightings of Stephens. But they said there was no sign he was actually there.

The suspect told his mother before the shooting that, "If you see me again, it'll be a miracle".

Maggie Green, the mother of Stephens, told CNN that he visited her Saturday afternoon, before the shocking act of violence. Later, Stephens told her on the phone that he was "shooting people" because he was "mad with his girlfriend".

Authorities admit that they don't know the whereabouts of the 37-year-old, who disappeared after shooting Robert Godwin Senior, 74, in the head in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday.

Five American states are on high alert as police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Marshals Service hunt for the children's mental health worker, who apparently chose to kill Godwin at random.

Williams said detectives spoke with Mr Stephens via mobile phone after the "heinous crime" but he had since slipped through the authorities' grasp.

"They tried to convince him to turn himself in and of course that hasn't happened to date," Williams told reporters at a press conference.

Stephens turned to violence because he was angry with his ex-girlfriend Joy Lane, he says in a video posted to Facebook.

She told CBS News in a text message that she was "sorry that all of this has happened".

"My heart & prayers goes out to the family members of the victim(s)," she wrote.

"Steve really is a nice guy ... he is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children."

In the video, which has since been taken down from the social media site, Stephens approaches Godwin and asks him to repeat Joy Lane's name saying, "She's the reason this is about to happen to you".

He pulls the trigger on the gun and the man falls to the ground, with blood rushing from his face.

A frame from video posted on Facebook shows Robert Godwin Sr in Cleveland moments before being fatally shot. Photo / AP
A frame from video posted on Facebook shows Robert Godwin Sr in Cleveland moments before being fatally shot. Photo / AP

Stephens wrote on Facebook he wouldn't stop killing until he received a call from his mother and Lane.

Williams said officers had searched for the suspect at dozens of locations "to no avail".

Stephens said in Facebook comments that he had killed 15 people in Cleveland, but Williams said there was no evidence that he had killed anyone other than Godwin.

The police chief warned residents that there was a lot of misinformation doing the rounds on social media.

"We don't want people to panic," Williams said.

"Unfortunately, there's been one fatality, one homicide in this entire scenario, and we want to keep it that way.

"We're still asking Steve to turn himself in, but if he doesn't we'll find him ... we're not going to stop until he's in custody."

Williams said the suspect had no criminal history but "obviously, he's got deep, deep issues".

Anthony said the goal was to find Mr Stephens before there was any further violence.

"This individual is armed and dangerous and, quite frankly, at this point he could be a lot of places," he said.

Cleveland police said they are searching for Steve Stephens, a homicide suspect, who recorded himself shooting another man and then posted the video on Facebook on Sunday. Photo / AP
Cleveland police said they are searching for Steve Stephens, a homicide suspect, who recorded himself shooting another man and then posted the video on Facebook on Sunday. Photo / AP

"We need to take this individual off the street ... rest assured that we're using any and all resources to work this, not just in the Cleveland area, but throughout the United States."

US Marshall Peter Elliott said he was "optimistic" Stephens would be found quickly.

"We're going to make this individual's world very, very, very small," he said.

Godwin, a father of nine and grandfather of 14, was shot walking home after enjoying an Easter meal with his children.

The hunt for Stephens had been widened to include the states of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan.

The suspect is described as African-American, 185cm tall and 108kg with a full beard.

Police have told Americans to be on the lookout for his car, a white Ford Fusion.

Williams urged people not to contribute to any GoFundMe pages taking donations because they had not been set up by Godwin's family.

- additional reporting AP, AAP

- news.com.au

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