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McDonald’s workers tipped police about Facebook killer

Source: GateHouse News

Shortly before he killed self, Steve Stephens ordered 20 nuggets and fries at drive-through window, workers said.

2:04 p.m.

Pennsylvania State Police say they will hold a news conference on the Steve Stephens case at 3:30 p.m. at Troop E barracks in Lawrence Park.

1:43 p.m.

Steve Stephens’ taste for McDonald’s helped the Pennsylvania State Police catch the accused Facebook killer in Erie.

Employees at the McDonald’s on Buffalo Road, in Harborcreek Township, said a drive-through attendant alerted state police when Stephens stopped at the restaurant’s drive-through window shortly after 11 a.m.

The McDonald’s is about five miles east of where state police stopped Stephens in Erie.

Thomas DuCharme Jr., owner and operator of the McDonald’s, said the attendant thought she recognized Stephens. DuCharme said the attendant then called state police.

DuCharme said Stephens ordered 20 chicken nuggets and a basket of fries, but that the workers held off on delivering the fries to delay Stephens. He said Stephens got the nuggets.

“We told him his fries were going to be a minute,” said Henry Sayers, the restaurant’s manager.

Said DuCharme: “I am pretty sure he figured out that we were on to him. He didn’t want to wait for his fries.”

He said Stephens then drove away without the fries.

1:23 p.m.

Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook pronounced Stephens dead at the scene at 11:35 a.m. Investigators are getting search warrants for the car and are waiting on the arrival of a state police accident reconstruction team later this afternoon.

Cook said his office would conduct an autopsy at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Three state police cruisers involved in the stop of Stephens’ car remained at the scene, along with Stephens’ car.

1:12 p.m.

Warren Harris, 64, of Erie, who is on the scene of the investigation, said he had lived near Steve Stephens and his family in Beachwood, Ohio.

Harris, who said he has lived in Erie for 12 years, said the family is “good, churchgoing family.” He said that today’s events did not surprise him because “incidents like this happen where I’m from.”

1:07 p.m.

A spokeswoman at Stephens’ employer told the Erie Times-News in a telephone interview on Tuesday afternoon that employees there learned quickly of Stephens’ death in Erie via news reports.

“It’s just been a tragic situation, on every front, with this story,” said Nancy Kortemeyer, senior director of marketing and public relations at Beech Brook, located in northeast Ohio.

Beech Brook is a behavioral health organization serving children, teenagers and families.

According to a statement Beech Brook officials posted on its website, Stephens worked there since 2008, most recently as a vocational specialist for youth and young adults. Prior to that, Stephens had been a youth mentor.

Stephens had no major disciplinary actions at Beech Brook, Kortemeyer said, and there was nothing in his work history “that would have been a red flag.”

The manhunt for Stephens has been “very much a strain and a worry” for the Beech Brook staff, Kortemeyer said.

“We’ve been worried about the safety of our staff and our clients,” Kortemeyer said. “We are just relieved the situation has been resolved without any further harm to anyone else.

Kortemeyer added, “It’s so sad that Steve Stephens took his own life. We don’t know what would have caused him to do this.”

Beech Brook issued a statement regarding Stephens’ death later Tuesday on its website:

“It was with a mixture of sadness and relief that Beech Brook learned of the suicide of Steve Stephens. Every suicide is a tragedy, but we also share a sense of relief with the rest of our community because we are no longer fearful that Mr. Stephens will take more lives.

“We are deeply grateful to the law enforcement officials who vigorously pursued this case. Our thoughts are with all of those impacted by these senseless acts of violence.”

1 p.m.

From Pennsylvania State Police, or PSP, in a news release:

” ‘Facebook Killer’ Steve Stephens was spotted just after 11 a.m. by an alert citizen near the intersection of Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue in Erie County, Pennsylvania, which is less than two miles from PSP Troop E headquarters.

“PSP troopers immediately began to canvas the area for Stephens and located him in his vehicle a short time later. Troopers in marked patrol units initiated a pursuit that lasted approximately two miles.

“The troopers attempted a PIT maneuver to disable Stephens’ vehicle, a white Ford Fusion. As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the PIT maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head.”

12:58 p.m.

Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have arrived on scene. The FBI arrived earlier and agents are still on scene.

12:55 p.m.

From a news conference in Cleveland at about 12:15 p.m.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said he had no information on why Steven Stephens was in Erie.

“We are taking a cautious approach,” he said. “There may be connections we don’t know about. There is still a lot we don’t know.”

Chief acknowledged that their federal partners had spent time searching Erie and the surrounding area.

Anyone who knows that area, he said, knows “there are a lot of places to hide.”

The press conference was held less than an hour after Stephens took his own life. At that early point, “We have spoken with all the families involved. They had all been notified,” Williams said.

Williams said at the news conference that he had few details: “Our investigators are on their way now,” he said.

Another officer who spokes at the news conference, but whose name was not available, said: “We had hoped to bring Steve in peacefully and talk to him about what happened.”

The same police officials said: “Kudos to Pennsylvania State Police for doing an outstanding job.”

Asked if he was worried about potential copycats who might commit their own crimes and post them to social media, Chief Williams shook his head no.

“We’re not putting that energy out there,” he said. “We’ve talked about people not living their lives on social media. This is something that should never have been shared on social media, period.”

Chief Williams said police followed up on about 400 leads across the country, but it was one particular tip that led police to Stephens.

“We are grateful to the people who gave this tip to Pennsylvania State Police,” he said.

12:53 p.m.

State police commanders have left the scene. Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook had been examining the body of Steve Stephens inside the white Ford Fusion, where police said he fatally shot himself after state police pulled him over at around 11:10 a.m.

12:51 p.m.

Spectators at the scene of an investigation of Steve Stephens’ apparent suicide in Erie, many streaming video of the scene from their smartphones, were glad the manhunt for the accused Cleveland Facebook killer was over. They said they’d been worried about the safety of local children after first hearing Stephens might be in Erie.

Others were not afraid at all.
“Everyone was scared of this dude for no reason,” Melvon Heidelberg said.
Heidelberg, 21, of Erie, traveled to the scene from East Lake Road after his friend told him Stephens had been found.
“People get shot out here everyday,” he said. “In Erie, that’s how it is. It’s real out here. You gotta be careful.”
Another spectator, Lisa Jenkins, of Erie, said the city has enough problems already.
“We don’t need Cleveland’s,” said Jenkins, 47.

Earlier:

Erie police have confirmed the suicide in Erie on Tuesday of Steve Stephens, the Cleveland resident suspected of fatally shooting a Cleveland man on Sunday and posting video of the slaying on Facebook.

Stephens died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while driving a white Ford Fusion near Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue around 11:10 a.m., police said.

State police were following the car as it headed west into Erie after leaving a nearby McDonald’s, police said.

The car, pointed west, is stopped in the westbound lane of Buffalo Road, across from the former Burton Elementary School, 1660 Buffalo Road. Police are blocking off the entire school grounds.

Erie police are also at the scene, with Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook and the FBI and Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri.

Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott said early Tuesday afternoon that he did not have much information about the incident, but he expected to be briefed later in the day by Police Chief Don Dacus.

“Obviously when you’ve got a fugitive out there, you’re pleased to see it come to some quick resolution,” Sinnott said.

 

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