NEW YORK — New York is specifically on alert in the wake of the graphic killing, posted on Facebook, of a 74 year-old great-grandfather whose attacker remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.
The apparent attacker, Steve Stephens, 37, confessed in a Facebook Live post to having shot Robert Godwin, Sr. at point blank range and posting the video on his Facebook page.
On Monday, the NYPD confirmed to PIX11 News, "All officers received a BOLO this morning," referring to a "be on the lookout" alert that had been issued to patrol officers. The New York State Police also told PIX11 News that its troopers statewide are in a status of "heightened awareness" regarding Stephens, who may be trying to visit family members in New York.
They're looking for him and for his car, a late model white, Ford Fusion, with an Ohio temporary license plate E363630. Police in Cleveland issued a nationwide alert for Stephens, but it has focused on Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York, which are all locations which Stephens could possibly reach on a full tank of gasoline.
Meanwhile, the family of victim Robert Godwin were gathered together in Cleveland, relying on one another and the memory of their patriarch for comfort. The comments they made in the aftermath of the death are as surprisingly peacemaking as the killing was violent.
"We forgive him, we forgive him," one of Godwin's daughters about Stephens. "It's what Daddy taught us."
He was the father of 10 children as well as a grandfather and great-grandfather.
"He was someone we loved, someone we cared about," another of his daughters said, in an interview with a local Cleveland television station. "He was a giver," she said. "He loved his family."
That family had a specific message for the man who admitted repeatedly on Facebook that he'd killed their patriarch in cold blood.
"Mr. Stephens, we forgive you," said his daughter, tears rolling down her cheeks, "but we're asking you to turn yourself in."
If he does not do. so, law officers in New York and at least four other states face unique challenges.
"Whether he has the car or not, that's the million dollar question," said Craig Caine, a retired inspector at the U.S. Marshals Service, who specialized over his 30-year career in tracking down fugitives.
He said that time is of the essence in this case, and that that time could be cut shortest with help from the public.
If people are looking out for Stephens's car, for instance, Caine told PIX11 News, "They say 'Hey, something's fishy here. There's someone asleep in a car'" that looks like Stephens's white Ford Fusion.
Caine also said that the fact that Stephens posted the crime on social media could be used as a tool to catch him. "[Investigators] will now track everyone he has contact with online, on his phone and elsewhere."