PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Robert Godwin Sr., the beloved father and grandfather gunned down at random on Easter Sunday, was memorialized by a police department which used a digital painting of the 74-year-old to delivery “an extremely important message.”
“YOU – the public – are the best weapon we have in the fight against crime. Sure, that’s a cliche – but some cliches become cliches for a reason. FACT: Mr. Godwin’s killer is no longer a threat because a citizen picked up a phone and called police,” the Philadelphia Police Department said in a Facebook post this week.
That message was accompanied by a digital painting of Godwin completed by the department’s forensic graphic artist Officer Jonny Castro.
After celebrating Easter Sunday with his family, Godwin, 74, was walking home in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was stopped by a stranger who pulled out a gun and shot him, all while recording the senseless act on his cellphone.
Steve Stephens, the self-proclaimed killer, then posted the fatal encounter to Facebook, setting off a days-long, nationwide manhunt that ended Tuesday when Stephens took his life while being pursued by police in Erie, Penn., about 100 miles away from the initial crime scene.
It was the vigilance of a McDonald’s drive-thru employee that helped police nab Stephens. The worker recognized the customer, who had just ordered a 20-piece Chicken McNugget and a large French fry, and called 911. They gave Stephens his McNuggets but held onto the fries to stall him until police arrived.
That final tip was ultimately what was needed to find the shooter, who was considered armed and dangerous, but before the worker called police, nearly 400 others – some as far west as Texas – had called the FBI, their local police departments or the special tip line created for this case.
After Stephens was found, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said it couldn’t have happened without the public’s help.
The Philadelphia Police Department, in releasing that digital painting of Godwin, echoed that gratefulness and reiterated the importance of a vigilant public:
“Every day in this country, individuals like Mr. Godwin are senselessly killed by cowards whose names aren’t worth the keystrokes necessary to type them into posts like this one. Far too often, it is the names and faces of those criminals – not their victims – that are remembered as we see them plastered all over the media.
“The sooner those wanted individuals are in custody, the sooner we can stop posting their pictures. Believe us – getting them into custody and off of our pages and streets makes us very happy.
“We need your help.
“Call it “snitching”, call it “ratting”, call it whatever you want. Regardless of your opinions on the police, please consider putting them aside for just a moment and giving us a call. You can always remain anonymous – and you can quite literally save a life.”