If the crime wasn’t tragic enough, Stephens recorded the last moments of Mr. Godwin’s life and uploaded the video to his Facebook profile for the world to see. Millions clicked. Millions opted not to watch. Either way, we were all affected.
Mr. Godwin was described by family members as a “good guy” who would “give you the shirt off his back.” His final minutes of life were spent in utter fear and confusion, as Stephens took out his unaddressed rage on an innocent bystander.
“Found me somebody I’m about to kill …this old dude,” Stephens can be heard in the graphic video before approaching Godwin.
He then proceeds to ask the elderly father of nine to say his ex-girlfriend, Joy Lane’s, name to the camera before telling Godwin that “she’s the reason this is about to happen to you.”
Stephens can then be seen pointing a handgun at the man, who frighteningly attempts to shield himself with a plastic bag before being shot in the head. He falls to the ground and blood pours from his face down onto the pavement.
In a separate video, Stephens appears to be speaking with someone on the phone and tells them he “just snapped” and has a lot of “built-up anger and frustration.”
He also vows to “keep killing until they [police] catch me.”
Authorities have currently launched a five-state manhunt in an effort to find Stephens, who reportedly works at a children’s mental health facility. Authorities are searching for him in the states of Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan.
In one video, Stephens said he “won’t stop” until his mother and ex-girlfriend call him.
“I’m killing motherf****rs all because of this b***h …She’s putting me at my pushing point. […] Today is the Easter Day Joy Lane massacre.”
A lot of people have taken to social media to voice their feelings and opinions about this tragically heinous act. Some have expressed shock, sadness and empathy for Mr. Godwin’s family. Others have decided to use their social media platforms to amplify the importance of addressing mental illness within the African-American community.
But there’s also one emerging trend that is beginning to flourish on the Internet: that somehow, Lane is responsible for not only Godwin’s death, but the possible deaths of those executed by Stephens.
Are people blaming the woman yet?
— Fem B. Wells (@FeministaJones) April 17, 2017
I blurred her face for her privacy. pic.twitter.com/XHWvShkN09
— thotty McQueen (@EsotericElle_) April 17, 2017
😩 ppl are really demanding Joy Lane to go back to someone who is probably an abuser & now a murderer so they can be in peace
— Brittany J. Burnam (@LiberalArtsDiva) April 17, 2017
No disrespect but if somebody had to die it should’ve been Joy Lane
— Shay Butta 🌸 (@AntaniaBased) April 17, 2017
Really? How about NO ONE dies?! Unbelievable.
So, let me get this straight. Some of y’all think it’s ok to blame the woman who was involved with a murderer for his crimes? You think it’s ok to ridicule, blast and wish death upon a woman for leaving a man who has proven to be a killer?
As someone who has dealt with depression, I understand just how low things can get. Living with depression—or any other mental illness for that matter —can place someone in a very dark, isolated and convincing place of hopelessness. You just want to escape by any means necessary and rationale, logic and sanity can sometimes literally hang on by a thread.
Despite that reality, you still have a choice.
It was Stephens’ CHOICE to murder an innocent, elderly father of nine in cold blood on what many observe as the Lord’s day. It is Stephens’ CHOICE to remain on the run and vow to “keep killing” until they catch him. He knows what he’s has done and is continuing to do.
Both Lane and Maggie Green, Stephens’ mother, have released statements on the incident. According to CNN, Green said her son was “mad with his girlfriend.”
Green also said she had spoke with her son since the killing and told him to stop. Lane made the following statement via text:
“We had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart & prayers goes out to the family members of the victims(s),” Lane wrote. “Steve really is a nice guy …he is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children. this is a very difficult time for me and my family please respect our privacy at this time.”
Lane also wrote that she was “praying for [the family] and praying for Steve. He needs help,” in a Facebook post before deleting her page.
I get it. Everyone just wants Stephens to stop. Many believe that a phone call from his mother and ex-girlfriend will solve this. But Green did speak with her son. She told him to stop. And while I pray he does, it is his choice.
By no means will I ever dismiss the seriousness of any mental illness. My personal experiences will not allow me to, no matter how much I improve. But what is absolutely inexcusable is blaming someone else for crimes they haven’t committed. Lane is probably in more shock than any of us could ever be. She supposedly knows Stephens to be a “nice guy.” Not only are his actions a clear indication that something’s wrong, but she doesn’t know what kind of state he’s in and how she may escalate the situation.
Unfortunately, because of Stephens’ horrific actions, everyone knows her name and what she looks like. In addition to fearing for her life (which is highly likely), Lane has reportedly received threats from strangers online. Crucifying her for a murder that she did not commit is just wrong. It also is a misappropriation of energy that should be used on finding Steve Stephens.
Joy Lane is not obligated to call Steve Stephens. Maggie Green, Steve’s mom, is not obligated to call her son. Instead of focusing on Lane, how about we collectively pray, hope, wish, send positive vibes or do whatever you subscribe to to find Stephens and get him the help he so desperately needs.
Shantell E. Jamison is a senior editor for EBONY. She moderates various events centered on love, relationships, politics and wellness and has appeared on panels throughout the country. Her book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction” is available now. Keep up with Shantell via her website, Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em.