Police are hunting for Steve Stephens, the suspect believed to have shot an elderly man at random and posted the video to Facebook on Easter Sunday. The video reportedly remained available on Facebook Live for three hours before it was taken down.
As Facebook Live has become a popular platform for life-affirming, funny or positive livestreams — like the recent, anxiously anticipated birth of April the Giraffe’s calf — it, along with Instagram Live, has also been host to a disturbing number of violent acts in recent months, including suicides of children, beatings, and murder.
Here are some of the violent deaths and crimes that have been broadcast to online streaming platforms in the last year:
In December 2016, 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis uploaded a 42-minute video to Facebook in which she tied herself to a tree and hung herself, at around the 20-minute mark. The Georgia girl reportedly had a troubled home life and had claimed in an online diary to be the victim of sexual abuse. Before she took her own life, the girl sobbed and apologized profusely. People who watched the video online commented that her phone rings repeatedly after she appears to have hung herself, and a woman can be heard calling her name.
Just last week, 13-year-old Malachi Hemphill brought a gun home from school and was showing it off on an Instagram Live video when he accidentally pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. His mother and sister were both at the family’s Georgia home and ran to Malachi’s room when they heard a loud noise. When he didn’t open his door, they kicked it open and found the boy lying in a pool of blood.
“Monitor their phones, just monitor your children,” the grieving mother told a local news station after the tragic accident.
An 18-year-old disabled man was allegedly tortured and abused while his tormenters — four Chicago-area teens who had reportedly kidnapped him earlier that day — taunted him in a video posted to Facebook Live. In addition to berating and punching the disabled teen, whose mouth was covered in duct tape, they were also seen cutting his scalp with a knife. The young man was later reunited with his parents and all four suspects have been charged.
In January, 14-year-old Naika Venant hung herself in the bathroom of her foster home and broadcast her death on Facebook Live. The girl had reportedly begged her biological mother to let her come home months before she died. Her mother is also believed to have posted taunting comments to the girl’s suicide video, though the mother’s lawyer later said she had been told Naika’s death was a hoax and did not post the comments while the hanging death was actually taking place.
Rodney Hess captured his own shooting death at the hands of police last month when he streamed a Facebook Live video after he blocked traffic on a highway ramp in Alamo, Tennessee. The 36-year-old New Orleans man was said to be bipolar, and reportedly tried to run police officers over with his car before they shot at him. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital but did not survive.
In February, little Lavontay White, 2, was riding in the backseat of a car with his aunt and her boyfriend when someone opened fire on the car. All three passengers were hit in what is believed to be a gang-related shooting. Only Lavontay’s pregnant aunt survived the shooting.
A D.J. in the Dominican Republic was broadcasting a radio show on Facebook Live when gunmen entered the studio and opened fire. The D.J., Louis Medina, was killed instantly, as was the show’s producer, who was in an adjacent office. A secretary was also injured. In the video, a woman can be heard off camera warning Medina, whose eyes go wide just before the shooting begins and the video cuts out.
In late January, an aspiring actor got into his car into Los Angeles and began streaming a Facebook Live video, urging his audience to watch what happens next. Within minutes, he was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Frederick Jay Bowdy, 33, was a promising actor from Texas with a wife and six children. Days before the apparent suicide, Bowdy had been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.
In June 2016, Antonio Perkins was drinking tequila with friends while streaming himself on Facebook Live. During the outdoor gathering in a Chicago-area neighborhood, Perkins was shot and killed. As shots echoed through the live stream, Perkins’ cellphone fell into the grass while blood splattered on its camera lens.
Perkins was believed to be associated with a gang, and shot down in retaliation by a rival gang.
In October 2016, Michael Vance allegedly killed five people before he was fatally shot in a police shootout in Oklahoma. Although he didn’t stream the murders as they took place, he later bragged about the incidents on Facebook Live, and boasted about stealing a car.
Oklahoma state troopers reportedly killed Vance when the suspect started firing at them after being pulled over. Police reports indicated that Vance had a pending child sex abuse case when the murders occurred. A 15-year-old reportedly accused him of sexual assault, which may have sent him on a “rage killings” spree.