Meet the man behind the suspect sketches for the Tempe Police Department

This is Vincent Thompson, he was arrested last month by Tempe police, and he's accused of sexually assaulting a woman in broad daylight near the Arizona Mills Mall. One of the main reasons police were able to track him down was the suspect sketch, which was created after police interviewed the victim. 

Tonight, we're hearing from the Tempe police officer who drew the sketch, and draws others in the hopes of getting more suspects off the street.

"That suspect, there were two things she remembered very specifically…," said Officer Aaron Williams with the Tempe Police Department. "…The shape of his lips and his hair. He had very unique hair, dreadlocks with beads. 

"It really started out as a hobby as a kid drawing comic book characters," said Williams. "Now it's turned into something that I can help serve my department and community at large."

"The process is not like the way I thought it was going to be, and probably the way a lot of people think," says Williams.

"It's not someone sitting across from me describing what that suspect looks like…Initially when I sit with them, I put them at ease by talking to them a bit," says Williams.

"What I do is give them a book of mug shots and they're broken apart in different facial features and they try to find things that are similar and then composite those images together."

"One of my questions is what was the most outstanding feature of this person, so I know when I'm drawing that I'm going to spend extra time making that look like exactly how they want it to look," Williams says.   

"Tell me everything you can think of. "If there's something you don't want to go over again, that's ok."  

Anything that might help them recall about this person looked like or what habits this person had…key in on some things that are unique to that person," says Williams.

"One I can remember where it was a female victim and she actually backed away from the paper and said that's exactly what he looks like," Williams recalls.

"There couldn't be a better compliment than that reaction."

"One that I can think of was a peeping Tom that progressed into a sexual assault situation down close to Mill Avenue," recalls Williams. "The officers did a wonderful job talking to this guy. He kind of looks like the sketch Williams did." "When I saw the sketch later compared to what this guy looked like, I'm not sure how they made the connection, but I'm glad they did."

"Any sketch artist, whether they want to admit it or not, they want to produce a work of art, but that's not the goal," says Williams. "The goal is to best put on paper the recollection of the victim or witness to catch these people."

Officer Williams works his regular patrol and gets called in to draw when needed. He's been with the Tempe police department for 4 years, and he's been sketching for the department for the last 2 years.


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