Earl Valentine had just critically injured his ex-wife and killed his namesake son in North Carolina, authorities said. He was somewhere on a dark road, possibly driving to Richmond to kill his former in-laws.
That’s when Valentine went on Facebook and started broadcasting live.
“She lied on me, had warrants taken out on me,” he told the camera early Tuesday, as he divided his gaze between the phone and the road. “She drug me all the way down to nothing. I loved my wife, but she deserved what she had coming.”
In his chilling Facebook livestream, which was later reposted on YouTube, Valentine acknowledged that the violent chain of events he started could end in his own death.
“Pleasure knowing all y’all,” he said. “I’ve been very sick for months. And this is something that I could not help. So I don’t know if I’m gonna make it where I’m going, but if I don’t, I wish all of you a good life.”
Police in Norlina, a town of 1,100 people just south of the North Carolina-Virginia state line, spent Tuesday and Wednesday trying to unravel what caused Valentine allegedly to kick in the door of his ex-wife’s single-story home and open fire — and then admit to the crime on social media.
But more than anything, they wanted to find Earl Valentine.
Authorities from the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service joined local and regional law enforcement agencies in a manhunt stretching from Virginia to South Carolina, Norlina Police Chief Taylor Bartholomew told The Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon.
Within hours, authorities located Valentine at a motel in Columbia, S.C., about 280 miles south of Norlina.
Officials said Valentine committed suicide after being surrounded. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“He shot himself in the head,” Bartholomew told CBS affiliate WLTX. “Think he felt the pressure of being surrounded by marshals. He died alone. At the end of the day, he is a coward.”
Hours earlier, Bartholomew said he had talked to Valentine on the phone; the Norlina police chief described the suspected killer as “cold and callous,” saying he showed no remorse for the shootings.
“For somebody that had just done something like that, he was calm but he was aggressive,” Bartholomew told The Post on Wednesday. “He was trying to pump me for information. His main focus was to make sure his ex-wife was dead.”
Bartholomew quoted Valentine as saying that he wouldn’t be taken alive and that he planned to kill his in-laws, then himself.
Police said later that Valentine drove to Richmond after killing his son and injuring his ex-wife, then turned around and drove south, to Columbia.
Keisha Valentine and her teenage son had moved to Norlina nearly nine months ago to get away from her abusive ex-husband, Bartholomew said.
She was granted a year-long domestic violence restraining order, but it expired last month. The police chief said there’s evidence that Earl Valentine had exchanged heated words with his ex-wife’s family on Facebook.
Still, it’s unclear what prompted Tuesday morning’s assault on Hyco Street.
About 1:30 a.m., Earl Valentine burst through the front door of the house and marched to his ex-wife’s bedroom, Bartholomew said. Keisha Valentine leaned against the door, trying to keep him out, but he managed to shoot her anyway.
Their son, awakened by the commotion, confronted his father. But the teenager fell to the floor and was shot in the chest.
Before he died, he called police and told them what had happened.
If he had been captured alive, Earl Valentine faced a first-degree murder charge in his son’s death, Bartholomew said.
Since Facebook Live launched in April, millions have used the service to offer a glimpse into the big moments and small details of their lives.
The view isn’t always pretty.
Earl Valentine is the latest example of a person using Facebook Live to discuss a violent act — or to showcase the act itself.
In June, Larossi Abballa, a terrorism suspect accused of killing a French police captain and his partner in their home, broadcast the aftermath of the attack on Facebook Live. An occasionally tearful Abballa, speaking a mix of French and Arabic, swore allegiance to the Islamic State militant group and encouraged others to follow his example and kill police.
A month later, a Georgia mother went on her daughter’s Facebook account to broadcast herself beating the teenager — punishment for posting sexually explicit pictures on the site.
“This is my page now,” Shanavia Miller told the camera after she fixed her hair. “Now I’m gonna need y’all to send this viral. Please share this because I’m not done. More to come.”
A July shooting in Norfolk that injured three men was inadvertently captured on Facebook Live. In the video, three men are sitting in a car, smoking and listening to rap music. Five minutes into the video, there’s a series of 30 gunshots.
And after police in Minnesota fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July, his girlfriend opened Facebook and began livestreaming the aftermath. The video was viewed millions of times, sparking outrage and widespread protests.
The nascent live-streaming service is raising philosophical questions about the power of unfiltered Internet video that can reach millions instantly.
As The Post’s Caitlin Dewey wrote in July:
Facebook Live, which launched globally in April, has quickly emerged as one of the Internet’s dominant platforms for streaming unfiltered, real-time video. As Facebook has learned in the past week, however, that status comes with unique challenges.
Real-time video is exceedingly difficult to moderate, as it reaches its largest audience instantaneously and can be redacted only after that moment of impact. That limits the power of even a dedicated, 24-7 moderation team, which Facebook Live has. Despite growing concern that the tool could be abused — several shootings, a police standoff and an accused jihadist’s confession have streamed on Facebook already — the company has remained intentionally (and characteristically) vague on the composition and guidelines of its moderation team.
This post, originally published on Sept. 7, has been updated.