Twitter users may have given Philadelphia police a big lead in investigating a violent hate crime.
Thanks to social media, police said they now know who they're looking for in connection with an alleged attack late Sept. 11 in downtown Philadelphia.
A group of "well-dressed" and "clean-cut" white men and women held down two men and beat them, making disparaging comments about their sexual orientation and stealing one victim's bag, police said. Both victims landed in the hospital, one beaten so badly he had his jaw wired shut and required facial surgery.
Tuesday night, Twitter users determined to identify the suspects shared surveillance video police had released and asked for help.
Seriously it's 15 people someone knows someone who knows someone. http://t.co/saIxIV3yzM …— FanSince09 (@FanSince09) September 16, 2014
Another Twitter user named @GreggyBennet joined in the search, sharing a photo allegedly showing the same suspects at a restaurant earlier that night. He said a "friend of a friend of a friend" saw the video and sent him the photo.
Even more Twitter users retweeted that photo and worked together to identify the restaurant in the background.
Then, @FanSince09 described on Twitter using Facebook Graph Search to see who checked in at La Viola on Facebook the night of the attack. @FanSince09 said he matched faces of people who had checked in to the restaurant to faces in the photo and contacted police.
@FanSince09 did not respond to ABC News' request for additional comment.
"We started getting all kinds of calls in terms of tips," Lt. John Stanford of the Philadelphia Police Department told ABC News today.
Another officer, Det. Joseph Murray, applauded Twitter users for helping, but said no arrests have been made.
S/O to @FanSince09 This is what makes my job easy. Sure, it's up to me to make the arrest but we are all in this together.— Joseph Murray (@PPDJoeMurray) September 17, 2014
This is how Twitter is supposed to work for cops. I will take a couple thousand Twitter detectives over any one real detective any day.— Joseph Murray (@PPDJoeMurray) September 17, 2014
Let's be clear here. No arrests made. Central Detectives have done a ton of work and have a lot more to do. (Not a law & order episode)— Joseph Murray (@PPDJoeMurray) September 17, 2014
Police said they were questioning suspects today, but no one has been charged with a crime. The investigation was ongoing.
For years, the Philadelphia Police Department has been lauded for its use of social media to fight crime and engage the public.
"It's been a great tool," Stanford said.
Love the outpouring of social media sleuthing happening in our city tonight! Let's keep it up! #BakeEmAwayToys !— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) September 17, 2014