Twitter Sleuths Lead Cops to Suspects in Pennsylvania Hate Crime

Philadelphia police officer applauds Twitter heroes.

ByABC News
September 17, 2014, 2:42 PM

— -- 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.

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.

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.