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NEW YORK (AFP) – A US gunman accused of murdering an elderly grandfather and posting the footage on Facebook killed himself after a brief police chase, bringing to a close a frantic nationwide manhunt.
Steve Stephens, 37 and thought to have been mentally unstable, had been on the run since 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr was shot dead on Easter Sunday, seemingly at random in broad daylight in Cleveland, Ohio.
The murder and a video sparked outrage across the world and renewed scrutiny of the growing number of grisly videos being posted on social media.
Facebook removed the footage hours after the attack. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that the world’s largest social network had a role to play in stemming the worrisome trend.
Police got the decisive tip-off after Stephens had been on the run for nearly 48 hours, when a McDonald’s employee recognized him at a drive-thru in Pennsylvania shortly after 11:00 am (1500 GMT) and called authorities.
“There was a short pursuit in which the vehicle was stopped. As the officers approached that vehicle, Steve Stephens took his own life,” Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams said.
Pennsylvania police said he shot himself with a handgun about a mile from the McDonald’s following a low-speed pursuit – at under 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour.
Tom Ducharme, owner of the restaurant near Erie, told CNN that Stephens drove up, placed an order and paid an employee, who recognized him and called police.