Twitter Sleuths Help Track Down Hate-Crime Suspects

Online detectives piece together clues in Philadelphia assault
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2014 9:10 AM CDT

A gay couple strolling around Philadelphia's Center City last week was harassed and assaulted by "a group of preppy-looking young adults," NBC 10 reports—but thanks to some social-media Sherlocks, police have made great headway in solving the case. A group of about a dozen people approached the victims at 10:45pm on Sept. 11 and asked them their sexual orientation, allegedly screaming, "You dirty f----t!" Some of the group members then held the two down and started beating them, leaving one of the victims with a wired jaw and serious facial cuts, ABC 6 reports. Then the detective work came into play: The Philadelphia PD released a video yesterday of the clean-cut suspects, 20-somethings wearing khakis, golf shirts, and sweater vests, which was soon followed by a post from Twitter user Greg Bennett that showed a still from the video next to a picture taken in a restaurant that appeared to show some of the suspects.

Then @FanSince09, who tells NBC 10 he wishes to remain anonymous, picked up the trail, retweeting Bennett's photo and receiving responses identifying both the restaurant and some of the suspects shown in the picture. When @FanSince09 checked Facebook to see who had checked in at the restaurant in question, the names matched up; police took over at that point. The Twitter sleuth is humble about his role, tweeting, "The story is an awful thing happened and enough people wouldn't tolerate it and did something about it," but Philly cop Joseph Murray raves, "This is how Twitter is supposed to work for cops." Though no one has been arrested or charged yet, lawyers for some of the suspects have already called police to arrange for questioning today. (It's not the only big mystery Twitter has helped solve in recent days.)

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