SBI Special Agent Craig Shook, a 1981 graduate, is the state's forensic composite artist. (TROY photo/Joey Meredith)
Craig Shook has always loved art. Today, he’s blended his art with a passion for law enforcement as Alabama’s primary certified forensic composite artist at the State Bureau of Investigation.
“I loved Woody Ishmael. His art was all over the place – in the White House, even,” he said. “So, I studied art – and if it would be possible to have a double major in art, I would have had it.”
Shook, who played nose tackle for TROY Coach Charlie Bradshaw 1977-1981, said Ishmael and other faculty members of the art department encouraged his art and honed his skills, but he admits the talent comes from someplace else.
“It’s a gift. It really is. I can teach someone to draw . . . and I used to think anyone could learn to do it, but, even watching my own grandchildren with crayons, I now understand drawing is really a gift,” he said.
After a career at Montgomery Police Department, at 51, Shook was given the opportunity to join the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, and there concentrated on vice and special operations – which he still does in addition to his crime sketching.
“It was challenging to step up to the state because you have to do it all again,” he said, pointing out a shoulder and hip replacement was needed to keep him agile. “You still have to jump the fences and do the ‘PT’ with the rest of the guys.”
His shot to draw for law enforcement agencies statewide – ALEA provides his services to local agencies at no cost — came in somewhat an unusual place, however.
“I was standing in the middle of a marijuana field and my cell phone rang,” he said. “I was in a place that I never had signal before, and I was asked if I wanted to take a class in Nashville (on law enforcement sketching).”
He jumped at the chance, and today, his drawings help local and state law enforcement apprehend criminals, and, with each sketch, comes an increasing awareness that he is doing something that can’t be replicated with a computer.
“I’m taking a perception in a mind and putting it on paper,” he said. “That’s just not something a computer can do.”
Victims — and witnesses to crimes — are often used, and each perception serves to hone an image that often turns into a great likeness of a suspect. Sometimes, even the suspects themselves compliment his portraits.
That service becomes invaluable to law enforcement throughout the state and even across the globe.
One sketch helped apprehend a murderer wanted for 34 years for killing his wife and children in Pike County. That suspect was captured in Puerto Rico, while renewing his passport. Shook’s age-progression drawing caused red flags on the application that alerted U.S. Marshals and led to the arrest.