Updated: Thursday, Sept. 18, 4:00 a.m. EDT
Internet sleuths appear to have identified many of the suspects wanted in connection with a brutal attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia last week, and a defense attorney said Wednesday that some of them would be turning themselves in for questioning.
The Philadelphia police department on Tuesday released surveillance video of the large group of suspected attackers as they walked along the Philadelphia street where the attack occurred. Within hours, the above photograph surfaced on Twitter that purports to show many of the suspects at a dinner party taken that evening at a nearby restaurant.
Greg Bennett tweeted this photo that he claims — because of similarities in clothing — includes some of the alleged suspects in the hate crime that happened on Thursday in Center City. Bennett did not want to confirm who sent him the picture, but from the image it appears it was taken at La Viola at 252 South 16th Street, not far from where the attack happened at 16th and Chancellor streets.
We reached out to the restaurant who confirmed that they had a large party on the night of the attack, but that they could not confirm whether the photo was taken that night. They also said they do not know who made the reservation, as they tear up their reservation list each night. They say they have not heard from police.
According to reports, a Twitter user named @FanSince09 turned to Facebook Graph Search to see who had checked into La Viola after it was determined that the photo first surfaced on Facebook. After matching the photo from people who “checked in” at the restaurant on social media, he notified police.
Article continues belowIt wasn’t long after that Philadelphia police detective Joe Murray credited @FanSince09 with helping to crack the case with this tweet: “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.”
Late Tuesday evening, WPVI-TV reported that attorneys representing the suspects have contacted police and are making arrangements to turn themselves in for questioning on Wednesday.
The victims, a gay couple in their late 20s, were held down, punched and beaten after they bumped into the group of about a dozen people at about 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 11. The larger group hurled gay slurs as the men were pummeled, police said.
Video released by Philadelphia police on Tuesday shows at least a dozen members of the group walking down the street at approximately 10:45 p.m. near where the attack had occurred moments later:
The attack occurred just blocks from what city residents affectionately call “the Gayborhood.” One of the victims was left with a broken eye socket and a wired jaw after three days in the hospital, while his partner had bruises and a black eye.
Attorneys representing a number of those seen in the video and photograph notified police they would bring in their clients to tell their side of the story, a police spokesman, Sgt. Eric Gripp, said. He didn’t know if any had been interviewed by late Wednesday.
Attorney suggests attack was not bias motivated
Update: A defense lawyer, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he had not been formally retained, suggested the fight could have stemmed from random contact, not bias. Pennsylvania‘s hate-crimes law, in any case, doesn’t cover crimes motivated by a person’s sexual orientation.
The lawyer said he was contacted by a potential client early Tuesday, before police posted the video. He said the group consisted largely of working professionals.
Report: Some suspects were classmates at Catholic high school
Update: WCAU-TV reported Wednesday that members of the group were classmates at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School in Warminster, Pa.
Officials at the school released a statement denouncing their alleged actions:
“Earlier today, Archbishop Wood High School became aware that some of its former students were allegedly involved in the assault of two men in Center City last week. … [T]he school does not, under any circumstances, tolerate or condone the violent and hateful behavior displayed by those who took part in this senseless attack.
“The actions of those who took part in the attack are reprehensible and entirely unacceptable. They are not an accurate reflection of our Catholic values or of Archbishop Wood High School.”
Suspects arrive at police headquarters for questioning
Update: Police said several of the individuals arrived at headquarters Wednesday night along with their lawyers and were questioned. There was no immediate information if any arrests were made.
Several defense attorneys with knowledge of the case, or who have been retained to represent some of those in teh video, tell WCAU-TV that more video exists that will “paint a different picture” of what happened, alleging that one of the beating victims threw the first punch.
Catholic school fires coach over alleged gay bashing
Update: Thursday, Sept. 18, 4:00 a.m. EDT
An assistant basketball coach at Archbishop Wood High School was fired Wednesday due to his alleged involvement in the attack.
Philly.com reports that the coach, identified by a source close to the team as Fran McGlinn, 25, had been “serving as a coach on a contract basis,” according to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
McGlinn “was terminated this evening and will not be permitted to coach in any Archdiocesan school,” the spokesperson said. “We expect all those who work with students in our schools to model appropriate Christian behavior at all times.”
An earlier report indicated that many in the group were once classmates at Archbishop Wood High School.
Developing story. This report will be updated.