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Did This Anonymous Twitter User Just Help Solve A Philadelphia Hate Crime?

A recent hate crime that shocked Philadelphia might’ve just been solved by several users on Twitter. Two men were brutally assaulted by a group of eight to 12 people on the night of September 11th in Center City, Philadelphia. The confrontation was allegedly fueled by hate, with an eyewitness claiming, “They were calling them ‘f*cking f*ggots’ and everything.”

The police eventually released the video above of the possible suspects, along with the following statement earlier this afternoon:

On September 11, 2014, at 10:45 pm, the complainant, a 28 year-old male, along with a friend, a 27 year-old male, were on the 1600 block of Chancellor Street when they were approached by a group of unknown white males and females. As the group approached the complainants they made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation. The group then attacked the complainants holding them while other members of the group punched them in the face, head and chest. During the assault one of the complainants dropped his bag containing his cell phone, wallet and credit cards. When police approached one of the suspects picked the bag up from the ground. The group then fled and were last seen north on 16th Street towards Walnut Street. Both complainants were transported to Hahnemann Hospital for multiple injuries. One complainant was treated for fractures and deep lacerations to his face requiring surgery and his jaw wired shut.

Suspect Description: A group of approximately 10-12 white male and females all in their early 20′s “clean cut” and well dressed. One suspect was described as having a husky build, brown hair, wearing a brown shirt and shorts.

It wasn’t long after that folks seemed to spring into action. Penn 6 owner Tim Adams offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the individuals, followed by several people on Twitter putting their detective skills to use in uncovering the faces behind the attacks.

Users Greg Bennett and Brian Hickey started by tweeting out another photo, taken from Facebook, featuring those in the video from earlier that evening:

With the new image and information, other users attempted to determine where the photo was taken. It was the user FanSince09 that finally pinpointed the image to the La Viola restaurant with the help of nearly 6,000 Twitter followers.

From there, FanSince09 took that information and used it within Facebook’s Graph Search to determine who checked into the restaurant via the site, finding most of the suspected individuals used the social network at the restaurant that night. They then matched the photo and contacted police, earning some well earned public praise for a good deed well done.

When contacted for a statement, FanSince09 gave some detail as to why they and many others decided to get involved and help. They decided to remain anonymous in light of so much attention, but the motivations were fairly clear:

It was something that sickened me. Everyone that follows me knows that I have no patience for intolerance, I’ve gotten people kicked out of school for racist tweets so I felt like I had to do something.  They had these guys on camera, clear as day. There were 15 of them and I had (at the time) 6,000 followers who were mostly from the region. Somebody knew someone.

People were quick to help, I think, bc they could talk to someone anonymous about it and I would pass it on. They weren’t directly acting, so they circled the wagons and used what talents they had.  I weeded through leads and jokes and sent the good ones to my friend Joe Murray at the PPD.

No one has been brought into custody yet, but ABC 6’s Kenneth Moton tweeted out that the lawyers for the suspects involved have contacted police to make arrangements. Philadelphia PD Joe Murray also wanted to remind everyone that no arrests had been made at this point, noting that there’s still a ton of work to do.

One can’t deny the impact of the assistance from social media though. FanSince09 joked about the possibility of a reward and also following the outpouring of praise, but managed to bring it all back into perspective by the end of it all:

I’m not banking on a reward, it would be nice because I have bills, obviously, but really it’s about bringing bad people to justice. Two men will never feel safe walking again and that is terrible because despite the reputation, Philadelphia is a great town, hopefully this makes them feel safer.  This was the least I could do but I’d like to believe that this won’t be tolerated on any town.

It’s nice when stories like this can trend down a positive avenue instead of devolving into mob ugliness. Hopefully the proper actions here tonight will lead to the law working towards a conclusion. Everyone involved deserves a big hand.

(Via Storify / Philadelphia Magazine / 6ABC )

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