Social media helps solve three-year-old homicide investigation into death of Mike Pimentel

TORONTO - A three-year-old murder case has been solved, partly due to police taking to social media to engage the public in searching for Mike Pimentel’s killer.

On January 1, 2012, Pimentel was involved in an altercation with a man near Liberty Street and Hanna Avenue after leaving a party at the Liberty Grand. The 24-year-old was seen by witnesses staggering and covered in blood around 2:45 a.m., after being stabbed.

In 2014, approaching the third anniversary of Pimentel’s death, Homicide Detective Tam Bui took to Twitter in an attempt to generate more information, releasing previously undisclosed photos to the public, including a set of keys, a pair of women’s high-heeled shoes, a strand of blonde hair extensions and a knife.

Homicide Staff Inspector Greg McLane said the case was solved as a result of help from the public.

TOP PHOTO: Shawn Poirier was arrested for the January 1, 2012 murder of Mike Pimentel

“Those items that were released through social media, we got a lot of feedback from people out there to not only help us identify what they were or where they come from or where they can be purchased,” McLane said. “It was actually quite remarkable to see the amount of information that flowed back to us about those items. It was a significant investigative technique that was used by the officers.”

Police also released photos of a man in a black jacket with a fur-trimmed hood and a woman in a black-and-white dress, asking the public to help identify them. They hash-tagged it #mikepimentelmurder, in an effort to reinvigorate the investigation, understanding that witnesses may not be from the Toronto area.

(top to bottom) Detective Tam Bui's twitter account showing items found near the homicide scene as well as a person of interest in the case; and tweets by Detective Bui regarding a Person of Interest and knife found near the murder scene

Soon, information started coming in. Through this information, police were able to identify Shawn Poirier, and further police investigation led them to Calgary.

“All of the investigators believed it was a solvable case because of the evidence collected,” said now-acting Detective Sergeant Tam Bui, the lead investigator on the case. “We just needed the help of the public to point us in the right direction and the public stepped up.”

Steve Ladurantaye, head of Government Partnerships for Twitter, said Toronto Police officers use Twitter well.

"The Toronto Police Service is among the most sophisticated in the world when it comes to Twitter, and it's encouraging to see it lead the way by using our platform to not only engage the public but also act on that information to make an arrest."

The 30-year-old Poirier was arrested on December 4, 2015, in Calgary, on a Canada-wide warrant for Second-Degree Murder and returned to Toronto December 8th to face charges.

“We are happy that we have been able to start the conclusion for the healing process for Mike’s family… it is about justice for Mike,” said Bui.

People are still encouraged to share information about the case with Bui at 416-808-7400, extension 7-7415.

Investigators especially want to speak to a taxi driver who picked up Poirier, near Lake Ontario, after being handed a cellphone to help establish his location.

“We believe you have valuable information to impart to us to aid us in this investigation,” said McLane, of the driver who would have been unaware that the murder had taken place.

Pimentel’s mother, Carla Luz, sister Carla Pimentel, and girlfriend at the time of his death Jennifer Defraga, all thanked the Homicide investigators for continuing their efforts to solve the case.

Murder victim Mike Pimentel's mother, Gloria Luz, and sister, Carla Pimentel, speak to the media after an arrest in the Homicide case

“I wanted to give a humongous thank-you to the Homicide team. If it wasn’t for them and their determination and their hard work, we would all not be standing here today,” Defraga said.

Carla Pimentel said her brother was a positive person.

“He was outgoing and very happy. He was never sad and everyone loved being around him,” she said. “It’s very sad, it’s heartbreaking.”

Written by Sara Faruqi; Content in partnership with Toronto Police Services.

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