They are not just good with serving fast food, but they're great with fast face-recognition as well. McDonald's employees played a crucial role in the police's manhunt and eventual pursuit of Steve Stephens, the suspected murderer who randomly shot a Cleveland retiree and posted a video of the crime on Facebook. The police acting on a tip and a good lead from the McDonald's crew gave a hot chase of Stephens who shot himself in the head when he got cornered by police officers. He eventually died from his own shot.
Stephens pulled up to a McDonald's drive-thru window on Buffalo Road in Harborcreek Township around 11 a.m. where an employee recognized him and noticed that he was driving a Ford Fusion with Ohio tags. The fast food restaurant crew then took Stephens' order and money, then immediately went to call Pennsylvania State Police as Stephens moved forward to the next window.
The store franchise owner Tom Ducharme, Jr. said his employees were not 100 percent sure that it was Stephens but that they had a pretty good idea it could be the cold-blooded murderer. Based on that suspicion of the young woman working the front drive-thru window, Ducharme along with a store supervisor took to the next window to see Stephens.
Ducharme and his McDonalds guys tried to sue for time and delay the suspect. The store supervisor told Stephens it would take a minute more for his fries, even if that was not really the case. They just needed the extra little time so the lady staff could call the state police. The store owner said that Stephens did not want to wait for the fries, and just wanted the chicken nuggets. He also refused any money back for the unavailability of the fries. He appeared to be in a hurry to leave and headed out on to Buffalo Road.
The supervisor said Stephens seemed nervous and a little agitated and said he just needed to go. Ducharme thinks at that point, Stephens might have suspected that he has been recognized, and was trying to get away.
It took only 30 seconds for the police to respond and were quickly on a chase for Stephens. Ducharme praised his staff for their quick thinking that proved crucial for helping bring a resolution to the 2-day interstate manhunt for the murderer behind the gruesome killing of 74-year-old Robert Godwin, Sr. who was just so innocently walking on a street collecting cans on Easter Sunday before he was randomly gunned down by Stephens.
The manhunt had put Ducharme's community on edge. He said many people speculated that he could not possibly be around the area anymore, but when he looked out his drive-thru window, he did think that it sure looked a lot like the day's most wanted man by the authorities.
Ducharme said he was proud of his staff, the lady who first recognized Stephens and made the quick call to the police, and his other staff and managers for handling the matter well. Ducharme said that before his drive-thru order, Stephens had also asked another employee who was on break behind the building for directions to the interstate.
Major William Teper of the Pennsylvania State Police confirmed that state police in Erie received a call from a concerned citizen reporting a sighting at the Harborcreek Township McDonalds around 11:10 a.m. He would not say, though, if the caller was a McDonalds crew, only that the tip was a key for investigators. Teper said that without the public, they would be nowhere. He said it's important for any investigation for the public to step in and help the police. He praised the tipster and said, " it's nice to be on the same team".
The tip, indeed, led the police team to chase Stephens about two miles from the McDonalds store and when they have inched closer to the suspect, a trooper used a "precision immobilization technique maneuver" to ram Stephen's vehicle, causing it to spin out of control near an abandoned school in Teper. When his vehicle stopped, Stephen took out a pistol and shot himself in the head.
The authorities were deeply in the midst of a 48-hour nationwide manhunt where they offered a $50,000 reward for helpful information leading to Stephens' capture and prosecution. Stephens, however, chose to put a violent end to the tragedy he himself started by taking his own life.