Communication chaos confuses CWRU

A run-down of news and alerts on the manhunt


Courtesy Cleveland Police

A Ford Fusion, similar to that driven by the suspect, Steve Stephens. The vehicle’s temporary tag number is E363630. Stephens is 6’1, weighs 244 pounds and bald with a full beard. He was seen wearing a dark blue and grey or black striped polo shirt.

Puzzled by all the messages yesterday, April 16? A manhunt was underway in Cleveland but no one seemed to know what portions of the city were safe, or what the search meant for the Case Western Reserve University campus. 

The Observer compiled a timeline of what happened when in region and who was told how.

The suspect, Steve Stephen, killed a 74 year-old man on East 93rd Street and fled in a white Ford Fusion. He had stated that there were other victims, a claim that has not been verified by the police, and that he was going to continue attacking people. As of press time, the Cleveland Police are still researching for the shooter, but believe he may have left the state of Ohio.

The suspect is still at large and is armed and dangerous. Tips can be called in at 911 if off-campus. If on campus, call the CWRU Police at (216) 368-3333.

Sunday, April 16

Around 2:00 p.m.: Suspect live streamed the shooting

The suspect, Steve Stephen, killed Robert Godwin, 74, and live streamed it on his facebook. According to, the post was taken down after nearly three hours. The man also claimed to have committed multiple other homicides, which have not been verified by the police.

3:58 p.m.: Cleveland Police first announced the incident on Twitter

Cleveland Police tweeted of the ongoing investigation of what may be the only homicide. The the Cleveland Police blog states that the suspect is 6’1 inch tall, weighs about 244 pounds and has a full beard. He was sighted wearing a dark blue and grey or black striped polo shirt.

3:58 p.m.: Fox 8 published an article online on the suspect

5:05 p.m.: CSU announced a campus lockdown

A little over an hour after local media outlets picked up the story, the Cleveland State University sent out a text and email alert initiating a lockdown.

It read, “Cleveland Police are searching for a murder suspect last seen south of interstate 90 in the [area] of E93rd. Shelter in place on campus or stay away from campus.”

Starting at 5:22 p.m., CSU sent out a message reiterating the lockdown about every 30 minutes. The lockdown was lifted through a final message sent at 7:45 p.m.

5:33 p.m.: Undergraduate Student Government sends email out

An email signed by Timothy Nicholas, the Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Government, was the first message students received warning about the manhunt underway; it was sent a little over half an hour after the manhunt began making national news.

The email suggested that the manhunt was ongoing in the area between E. 102 Street and E. 108 Street, about a half a mile from Mather Quad. The area is about 3 miles away from CSU.

USG does not normally, and is not tasked with, sending out alerts or updates of ongoing incidents on campus. Emails sent by USG do not go to graduate students, faculty or staff.

6:00 p.m.: First and only email alert sent out to CWRU on Sunday

An hour after the manhunt made national news, the CWRU community received its first official directions on how to protect themselves: “stay indoors.” Unlike news reports, such as that by Channel19, the email’s vague language did not signify a lockdown. (After its last update on 10:30 p.m. April 16, the news piece still mistakenly states that CWRU was under lockdown).

The email did not contain any additional information and did not mention the area of Cleveland where the manhunt was underway within at the time. It also was not sent from the usual email address and contained a suspect description in a style different from that typically sent out by the police. Those not following local or national news channels may have understandably wondered why they were receiving an email about a homicide far from campus.

6:19 p.m.: Text alert to notify CWRU of email alert

Over an hour and a half after CSU sent out its first detailed alert, a terse text alert was sent out to notify the CWRU campus of the email sent to it 19 minutes prior: “stay indoors if on campus and see email for more info.”

7:22 p.m.: Cleveland Police tweets the suspect’s headshot

7:31 p.m.: University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center announces a lockdown on Twitter

The lockdown was lifted two and a half hours later at 10:17 p.m..

Around 7:40 p.m.: Cleveland mayor and chief of police hosts media briefing

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Chief of Police Calvin Williams hosted a media briefing to update the public on the suspect Stephen and urged Stephen to turn himself in.

7:45 p.m.: CSU lifts lockdown

A little before 10 p.m.: Facebook event page created for a protest

Nicholas and USG Representative Andrew Thompson created a facebook event page to launch a protest against the delay and the quality of the alert sent out concerning the manhunt going on at the time.

The protest is set to occur in front of Adelbert Hall on Tuesday, April 18, starting at 4 p.m. and is planned to last up until the biweekly USG General Assembly at 7 p.m. in the building. Over 400 persons have been invited to the page and over 150 people have indicated their interest or intention to participate.

10:17 p.m.: UH CMC lifts lockdown

10:47 p.m.: CWRU President Barbara Snyder sends an email to update the campus

In what was the second official message regarding the shooting that made national news over five hours prior, President Barbara Snyder sent an email to all campus members informing them that the campus will maintain normal operations the following day, April 17.  

Snyder also suggested the reason behind the delay in communicating the alert, as those in charge were not aware of all the details of the incident and were concerned about accuracy. She acknowledged that, “it’s better to overreact than underreact,” in such situations.

Monday, April 17

After midnight: Cleveland Police say the suspect may have left Ohio.

6:09 a.m.: Follow-up CWRU email informs normal operations on Monday

According to the email, a larger police presence will be exist throughout the campus.

9:53 a.m.: Email from President Snyder and Provost Baeslack

President Snyder and Provost Baeslack sent out an email urging students to speak with faculty if they feel yesterday’s events affected their academic work.  

The Observer will continue to post updates.