On April 16, 2017, Steve Stephens, 37, shot and killed 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. on East 93rd Street in Cleveland. It was around 2 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Stephens uploaded a video of his crime to his Facebook account, in addition to a series of other live videos in which he claimed to have killed more people (police have since invalidated those claims). Days after the murder, Stephens was found dead in Erie, Pennsylvania, in what was determined to be a suicide. Now, Godwin’s family is suing the social media platform for negligence, failure to warn, and wrongful death.
According to the lawsuit filed on January 19, Facebook “was intentional, willful, malicious, in bad faith and in reckless disregard for the right of Mr. Godwin.” The suit asserts the company should have notified law enforcement of Stephens menacing behavior, but chose not to act. Stephens posted a video at 11:09 am on April 16 2017, saying that he planned to kill—a video separate from the one of Godwin’s killing. The latter video remained live for over two hours before being removed.
Facebook issued a statement to Fox 8 on Monday, saying “We want people to feel safe using Facebook, which is why we have policies in place prohibiting direct threats, attacks, serious threats of harm to public and personal safety and other criminal activity. We give people tools to report content that violates our policies, and take swift action to remove violating content when it’s reported to us. We sympathize with the victim’s family, who suffered such a tragic and senseless loss.” Godwin’s family is seeking $25,000 in damages and legal fees.