SketchCop – Drawing A Line Against Crime is the story of Sergeant (Ret.) Michael W. Streed - The SketchCop. He is the person police call when something bad happens. When his phone rings, it's because police need his help solving their most difficult and heinous cases.
During his 35-year career, Michael has provided signature images for some of America's most notorious murders, rapes and kidnappings. His sketches decorate walls inside detective squad rooms, coast-to-coast, from Los Angeles to Baltimore, a stark reminder of the evil that lurks among us.
From his beginnings as a police cadet to his role as one of America's top police sketch artists, Michael shares compelling crime stories taken from his bulging portfolio, detailing how he used his specialized skills, as The SketchCop, to turn memories into monsters.
With, SketchCop, Michael takes readers on a thrilling joyride across a landscape littered with crime scenes and violent criminals, including anecdotes from historical cases, like the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Details about the psychological impression this important investigative tool leaves on victims helps to round out the book in a way that guarantees after reading SketchCop, you'll never look at another face the same way again!
Different types of heroes develop over time. CSIs who know their way around chemistry and evidence, detectives trained in interrogation and canvasing crime scenes, and a slew of others. In Sketchcop we see crimes through the eyes of a man called in to give evil a face that can be tracked – and ended. It's an entirely different perspective that I find fascinating. – David Niall Wilson
"Michael Streed is as passionate about being an artist as he is about being a cop. It's that passion which fuels his ground-breaking work."– JuJu Chang, Correspondent – ABC News, New York
Mike Streed is a cop – and one of California's most vital artists…a standout in his field!– Orange Coast Magazine, Orange County, CA
SketchCop puts the entire investigation of my daughter's murder in a context rarely available to the public. Sarah, her friend, will be forever remembered for her unbelievable courage. The two of you clearly made a wonderful team as you worked together to make sure the man who killed Samantha could never hurt another child.– Erin Runnion, Samantha's mother and Founder – The 'Joyful Child Foundation'
Staring at the clock, I watched anxiously as the time approached three o'clock. Seconds dragged into minutes as the big hand on the clock inched slowly toward the top of the hour. In a few moments, the bell would ring, marking the end of another long school day.
Typically, this was the time of day when we were content to sit quietly and wait patiently for our dismissal. But today was not your typical day. Today, things were different. Today, we were restless and frightened, ready to run for our lives.
As the time ticked down, we were perched nervously on the edge of our seats, bodies shifting, our weight leaning toward the door, hoping to be the first to run through it when the bell started ringing.
As the tension mounted, we began to swing our legs back and forth. With so many pairs of shoes scraping simultaneously across the smooth linoleum floor, it began to sound like a carpenter furiously rubbing sandpaper across pieces of rough-hewn lumber.
It wasn't long before nervous chatter replaced the sound of swinging feet. The sound of our voices rose steadily in volume until it drowned out the steady buzz from the tired old clock.
Finally, the bell sounded, plunging the school into total chaos. Without a moment of hesitation, we exploded from our seats. We tore through doors, into the narrow hallways. In seconds, we were everywhere, stampeding over the top of one another as we scurried toward any exit we could find, trying desperately to escape from school and flee to the safety of our homes.
Thundering footsteps rattled windows and shook frail nerves as we quickly fled the campus. And before the ancient timepiece stopped ringing, the last of hundreds of screaming children were barely a whisper in the distance as order was once again restored and a quiet calm returned to campus.
To understand the terror that led to the day's chaotic ending requires that you go back to the start of the school day. Like every day, it began innocently with the flag salute, followed by the principal's daily announcement, a mind-numbing blend of information he thought was important for us to know.
It became quickly apparent that today's announcement took on a far different tone than usual. The principal went off script to issue a warning about a man dressed in a clown costume loitering near the school. According to police, this clown had been spotted on several occasions attempting to lure children into his vehicle.
News of this clown touched off widespread anxiety. It wasn't long before "The Clown" was the topic of every conversation. All around the playground, children began to speculate about who would be his next victim.
Hushed whispers breathed life into a rumor that this clown was a killer. The realization that one of us could be plucked off the street, never to be seen again, dampened our nervous excitement, as the seriousness of the situation cast a pall across campus.
After the announcement, I spent the rest of the day moving about the campus, listening to the nervous chatter of my classmates. Their fearful comments made me wonder how things got out of control so quickly. No one ever said this clown was a killer. In my mind, he was nothing more than a harmless old man.
But funny or not, he was still out there. And until he was caught, this particular clown posed a danger to all of us.
To prove my feeling that this was just a silly clown, I decided to walk home alone. Things started out pretty well. With a clear patch ahead and no sign of The Clown, I was feeling good about my chances. That was, until I heard the sound of a slow-moving vehicle approaching me from behind. An uncomfortable feeling settled in as the engine noise grew louder, causing the ground to rumble beneath me. As the vehicle slowed to match my gait, my confidence began to crumble as I realized the vehicle and its occupant were stalking me.
It should have been obvious, but I had no clue about who would be following me. I stole a glance over my shoulder and was startled to see a dark-colored Ford Econoline van with a cheap set of whitewall tires keeping pace with each of my steps. The driver was a creepy-looking, older man. I struggled momentarily to figure out who he was and what made him look so weird. Was it the face painted shiny white, with bright colors circling his bloodshot eyes and darkened mouth? Or was it his red bulbous nose, littered with broken spider veins crawling across the bridge and blending into his ruddy cheeks. Whoever he was, his grotesque appearance made me shudder. I couldn't figure out why a clown would want to look so scary. Then it hit me — it was The Clown!
I was suddenly paralyzed with fear. I didn't know what to do. Everything seemed so unreal. My first instinct was to run. But after quickly gauging the distance home, I realized there was no way to make it there safely using the street. Shifting gears, I tried to think of alternatives.
All I cared about was making it home. With absolutely no plan in mind, I decided it was now-or-never and broke into a dead run.
The Clown reacted by gunning his engine as he began to chase me. Several times he speeded up, jerking the steering wheel toward me, in an attempt to block my path. But each time he skidded to a stop, I leaped around the front of his van and kept running. Sensing an opportunity to finally get away, I hurtled over a low hedge and began zigzagging through several front yards.
The Clown ditched his van and began running after me. The sound of his feet pounding against the pavement was all I could hear. Or maybe, it was the sound of my own feet. At that point, it didn't really matter. The Clown was in hot pursuit, and I had to get away.
During the chase, I wanted to look back to see where he was. But I was afraid The Clown would reach out and grab me. When I finally looked, I was relieved to see that he was far behind. Around the time I began to feel good about my odds of escaping, a sprinkler tripped me up and sent me cartwheeling through the air. I hit the ground with a violent thud. The force of the impact scattered my books everywhere. I slowly rolled over to see The Clown smiling at me with crooked yellow teeth.
The Clown's breathing became labored and sounded like a death rattle. A few more yards probably would have killed him. He should have had a heart attack a couple of blocks back.
Slow to recover and unable to move, I now would be forced to surrender to his depravity. All I could do was lie there and wait.
As The Clown approached, I could smell the pungent odor of cheap cologne. Mixed with the smell of stale cigarettes and whiskey from last night's drunk, The Clown reeked of death.
But I wasn't dead – yet.
In a last ditch effort to escape I tried to scoot backwards on the palms of my hands. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough. The Clown bent down to scoop me up in his dry, thick, tobacco-stained hands. As he lifted me off the ground, I turned my head away and winced in disgust at the smell of him.
I began screaming for help as loud as I could. All I wanted was for someone to rescue me. I knew that once The Clown carried me away, I would never be seen again. But no one was coming. I was all alone.
Suddenly, my screaming stopped as I woke and looked around. It was dark and difficult to see. It felt like I was in bed, but I couldn't be sure. My right hand began to search about, gliding across the sheets to reach for my wife. The place that was once hers was cold and empty. She had died several months before, and I had not yet gotten used to sleeping alone.
Soon, a calm feeling returned. I realized that my fear was nothing more than a bad dream and that I was safe at home. My eyes slowly closed as I slipped off to steal another hour of sleep. Thankfully, I wasn't trapped in the clutches of a killer clown, yet I lay aching from the emptiness one feels when they realize how truly alone they are.
As much as I tried, it was impossible to sleep. So I climbed out of bed to make my morning brew. It wasn't long before I was hunched over the morning edition of the Orange County Register enjoying a hot cup of coffee. My mind drifted away from the newspaper as I began thinking of The Clown. I began to replay the dream on a continuous loop inside my head, over and over again.
I couldn't help but think that my fear was unreasonable. Why after all these years would I have a nightmare about a clown? Weren't clowns supposed to be funny? I didn't really think so. Whenever I see a clown, it made me wonder about the kind of person who hides his face behind a semitransparent mask and plays with kids all day.
Maybe I felt that way because my first experience with a clown was that terrifying school day experience. To this day, I'm not really sure if he was ever identified or arrested. All I know is that this person cleverly used a clown costume as his "hook" to attract children. Luckily, I only encountered The Clown in a nightmare. Today I shudder just thinking about him. So I've spent my career thinking of ways to unmask the killer clowns of the world and sketch their hidden faces.
For the contemporary child molester, I think the lure of clown garb might be a bit over the top. Child molesters and killers have become more sophisticated in the methods they use to hunt their prey. With today's technology, it's become easier for them to identify and stalk their victims.
Luckily, the clown from that day at school, revived in my dream, disappeared without anyone getting hurt. The fear he left within me is something I still think about from time to time, yet I realize that brief terror is nothing compared to that experienced by children who have been abducted and later murdered.
Maybe that's the reason why for the past thirty-five years I've been drawn to use my skills in some of the country's most high-profile child abduction and murder cases. Cases like those of three-year-old Laura Bradbury, who disappeared in 1984 from a campground at Joshua Tree National Park in Morongo Valley, California, or Anthony Martinez, 10, taken from Beaumont, California, in 1997.
After them, there was Anna Palmer, age ten, sexually assaulted and killed in 1998 on her front porch in Salt Lake City, Utah. And, in 2002, five-year-old Samantha Runnion, taken while playing by her apartment complex in Stanton, California, and later found dead.
These children and countless others have suffered unthinkable horrors at the hands of people society failed to protect them from. All are a grim reminder that there is still more work to be done. For them, I am committed to doing whatever is necessary.
I am grateful for the opportunity to lend my skills to dedicated investigators who work hard to bring these monsters to justice. Being a part of their team is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.
For those of us in law enforcement, the search for justice begins in several different ways. For me, it began with a faceless man that I considered a killer clown, and it hasn't ended since.
It probably never will.