Social media, bragging crooks a boon to police
By Dana DiFilippo, Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA -- Most people post what they ate for lunch, brag about their kids or lament a slow workday on their Facebook status.
Omar Woods of Kensington confessed a crime: "I'm on da run for 3 attemed (sic) murders."
That status update, along with photos that Woods later posted of himself with a handgun jammed in his waistband, now could help convict him in a July shooting in Kensington that injured three people.
As social-media use grows, more scofflaws, like Woods, are posting incriminating information or photos online. Some brag about misdeeds to improve their social standing or intimidate enemies. Others, lulled by the Internet's illusion of anonymity, never dream that police could pick out their posts from the sea of cyber-data.
But the trend has proved to be a windfall for law enforcement, who now have another tool to tackle crime.
"One of the great things about the Internet is it gives people a voice," said Cpl. Frank Domizio, a Philadelphia Police Department social-media specialist. "And if your voice is not that smart, it gives you a voice that's going to get you arrested."
Such tactics helped police in South Jersey crack the case of Autumn Pasquale, 12, who had traded messages and meet-up plans with her alleged killer on Facebook, days before her disappearance and murder, about their mutual interest in motocross bikes.
Last fall, when two teens burglarized a Northeast Philadelphia man's apartment, a neighbor's security camera caught a clear picture of them. Facebook helped investigators identify one suspect after she posted a photo of herself, the day after the Nov. 11 burglary, in the same blue-plaid shirt she'd worn in the burglary, according to court records.
In Woods' case, he made his "on da run" post 12 days after he allegedly shot three people July 23 at G Street and Allegheny Avenue, according to court records.
The victims had come to the corner hunting for a friend's stolen cellphone. But when they asked teens gathered there about it, a fight erupted, ending with a gunman opening fire, court records show. One victim remains in a wheelchair after multiple surgeries, records show.
Woods, 19, was a suspect early in the probe, and witnesses later identified him as the shooter, court files show. In November and December, he posted photos of himself on Facebook with guns in his waistband -- including a semi-automatic pistol similar to the 9 mm used in the shooting, according to court records.
Prosecutors have taken the case to a grand jury, claiming witness intimidation, said Joshua Scarpello, Woods' attorney. n