CLEVELAND - They sat shoulder-to-shoulder. It was symbolic of a team approach to catch a murderer who took his killing actions and words and placed them on Facebook.
So emotional was the killing of Robert Godwin Sr. seen by thousands of people before it was taken down by Facebook, the entire community of Greater Cleveland went on high alert. The manhunt for Steve Stephens was underway.
Three days after the killing and the day following the suicide in Erie, PA, of Stephens, 37, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson, and Police Chief Calvin Williams set in the mayor's office to thank the community for working in partnership to try and locate the fleeing Stephens. The entire community was traumatized by the shooting of Godwin, 74, which was done at random as he walked along a city street.
"When you culturalize violence, you use violence as a legitimate means of conflict resolution and you put guns in the hands of people," Jackson said, "you're going to have problems."
Williams worried that so much is put on social media.
"Our hope is people will start to look at the social media aspect of it and what happens on that," he said.
Although Stevens killed himself when Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement officers received a tip he was in the drive-thru of an Erie restaurant, they chased him. When they were able to hem him on an open area of a city street, Stephens shot himself to death with his gun. As was the case in Cleveland on Cleveland news media, television, radio, and newspaper outlets in Erie, about 100 miles from Cleveland, made the murder and manhunt story their priorities.
Viewers in Erie, where it was thought Stevens might have been headed because of a ping authorities had picked up from his cell phone signal, had followed the story. His photograph and description of his car were broadcast. When Stevens pulled into the restaurant drive-thru, the worker at the window recognized him and called 911.
Jackson and Williams had praise for people throughout the region who followed the story and called in tips or kept a lookout for the fugitive. Speaking on this case and other crimes in the city, the police chief was emphatic.
"Solving what's going on in this city is the community being involved, and engaged, and caring enough to pick up the phone and make a call," Williams said.
The death of Stephens, however, does not end the police case. Investigators in both Cleveland and Erie are still trying to get more information as to what preceded the murder and where Stephens was during his flee.
"I think people are more concerned where Steve was for the past forty plus hours," Williams said. "So we're in the process of working with Pennsylvania State Police to try and determine that."
Both the police chief and the mayor were visibly moved by the killing. As well, they said they were both visible moved by members of the Godwin family in Cleveland who publicly forgave Stephens for the murder of the 74-year-old patriarch of the family.
"It was a teaching moment for all of us as to how to really handle this kind of tragedy and sorrow that was inflicted upon them," said the mayor.