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Police: Twitter users helped ID hate crime suspects

Suspects in an attack Sept. 11, 2014 on two Philadelphia men.

Philadelphia Police Department

Last Updated Sep 18, 2014 11:03 AM EDT

PHILADELPHIA -- Police used social media to help identify the suspects in a what they say was a brutal hate-crime attack on a Philadelphia gay couple, reports CBS Philadelphia.

Tuesday night, investigators released surveillance video of a group of 15 men and women suspected of involvement in assaulting the victims, two men in their 20's, on the night of Sept. 11.

Not long after police posted the video, which describes the suspects as "white males and females, in their early twenties, clean cut and well dressed," Twitter user and reality television star Greg Bennett linked to a photo taken Sept. 11 of people who look similar to the suspects.

The group appeared to be dining at a restaurant, but Bennett, who was formerly on the television show "Real Housewives of New Jersey," did not know where. The alleged assault happened about three blocks from the restaurant.

Police credit Twitter user FanSince09, well-known locally for his sports commentary, with helping to crack the case.

After FanSince09 followed up on Bennett's lead, his followers identified the restaurant, and soon after FanSince09 identified the alleged suspects.

"I was happy to see that as many people were as outraged as I was," he told CBS Philadelphia. "And enough people really wanted to make something happen, and everybody really kind of banded together for this."

He was hoping some of his 7,000-plus followers would be able to help police. In one case, someone tweeted a picture of the alleged suspects at a Rittenhouse Square restaurant from before the attack, and others followed suit.

"They would send me Facebook profiles or photos," he said, "and I would kind of match them with what I would see in the video."

FanSince09 then sent that information to Detective Joseph Murray of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Police said they have been contacted by attorneys who say their clients were looking to talk to investigators about the attack.

Philadelphia station 6ABC reports that the suspects will meet with police Wednesday.

CBS Philly reports one of the two victims was hospitalized for three days with injuries including severe facial fractures.