The sudden popularity of live-streaming video services like Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope — along with the ability to upload previously shot videos to the platforms — has been increasingly been accompanied by the sharing of violent acts such as slayings, rapes and suicides and even torture. The videos are posted by people seeking attention, even feelings of empowerment. Now, experts worry now about copycat offenders and, worse, people seeking to “one-up” the gruesomeness of the last viral video.
On Sunday morning, before he gained an unwanted fame on Facebook as a homicide victim, Robert Godwin, 74, visited his son, Robert Godwin Sr.
“He hugged my wife and me and said ‘I’ll see you guys next time,’” Godwin Jr. told Cleveland.com. “I said ‘OK, enjoy your Easter.’”
The retired foundry worker with nine children and 13 grandchildren, was in the wrong place at the wrong time while out looking for aluminum cans, which he collected.
Just before fatally shooting him in a video uploaded to Facebook, the individual identified by police as Steve Stephens asked him, “Can you do me a favor? Can you say ‘Joy Lane’?”
“Joy Lane?” Godwin, appearing confused, responded.
“Yeah,” Stephens said. “She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you.”
He pulled the trigger.
The camera spun around. When the picture came back into frame, Godwin’s body was on the pavement, an enormous streak of blood beside him.
The shooter zoomed in with his camera on Godwin’s bloodied face.
“I haven’t watched the video,” his son told Cleveland.com. “I haven’t even looked at my cellphone or the news, I don’t really want to see it,” he said.
Killed for nothing. The shooter didn’t even know him, police say.
“That motherf–ker dead ’cause of you, Joy,” the shooter said before he walked back to his car.
He was chosen on a whim, by a man looking for attention, or trying to send a sick message to someone else, and perhaps to the world. It certainly seemed Stephens planned it. When visiting his mother Maggie Green on Saturday, he told her, “If you see me again, it’ll be a miracle,” as she recounted to CNN. She hasn’t. Police said he might be as far as Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana or Michigan.
It’s just the latest example of a growing horror.