Editor's Note: This article was originally published Jan. 10, 2019.
The drawing was called “amateurish and cartoonish” at first.
And then everyone really piled on.
“Looks like a 3rd grader drew this,” remarked one online commenter.
Wrote another: “Worst ID sketch ever.”
The esteemed Washington Post weighed in, calling it “terrible.”
Mocked the New York Daily News: “Put an APB out for Linus.”
Jocelyn Park was hurt, but remained quiet, anonymous.
And then she got the last laugh.
The work of this Lancaster resident — a graphic designer who, by the way, holds a pair of art degrees — helped police eventually catch the subject of her simple drawing: a thief who struck at Central Market.
Park told the story about the simple sketch that went viral for the first time Wednesday night at a gathering of the group Lancaster Transplant, which she founded to help people who relocate to the area meet others and get connected.
Until then, the artist’s identity was a mystery.
“It’s true,” Park, 33, said at a special Transplant event called “Confessions,” which encourages members to share stories they haven’t revealed to anyone else. Most were anonymous, but Park’s wasn’t.
“I did it,” she said, to cheers and applause.
And this is the story of her most famous work to date.
A quick sketch on a sticky note
Morning visits to Central Market became routine for Park after she moved to Lancaster about six years ago. On Jan. 30, she stopped to buy a dozen eggs from her favorite stand.
There was an unfamiliar man behind the stand.
And he was clutching cash.
Park confronted him and tried, unsuccessfully, to stop him from fleeing.
She called 911 and talked to police.
The image of the man was seared in her memory.
“I thought, if they call me back and ask me to identify him, then I better write down details,” Park recalled in an interview with LNP this week. “I'll do one better, and I'll sketch out what he looks like."
She drew one quick sketch, then a second.
Lancaster police Officer Ben Rothermel followed up with a call and asked her to explain what happened. She sent him a photo of the second sketch, drawn on a sticky note.
Lancaster police Lt. Bill Hickey saw the sketch in police files and included it in a daily summary of incidents distributed to the media.
LancasterOnline posted a brief story with the sketch and request for information.
That’s when the story blew up.
Everyone — from social media users to website commenters — was having a field day over the sketch’s cartoon-like quality.
The next day, Rothermel called her and said, “I don't know if you know this, but this sketch has just gone out of control.”
“I know,” she said. “I already know.”
And the word that kept popping up in headlines was “amateurish.”
The anonymous artist
At first, staying anonymous was a no-brainer, Park said.
The criticism of the sketch’s quality was pretty harsh.
“I got a little bit upset, but I thought, ‘Just wait ’til they find him, and they put the sketch up next to his face,’” Park said.
“It’s all going to be vindicated.”
Sure enough, about a week later, an off-duty cop said the description and the sketch reminded him of 44-year-old Hung Phouc Nguyen. Park said she was shown a photo array and picked Nguyen out of the lineup. Police issued a warrant for his arrest.
Then she said the tune of online commentary changed.
“People said, ‘It does look like him. It captures his essence,’” Park said .
Nguyen pleaded guilty in June and was ordered to spend a maximum of 23 months in jail and be on probation for two years. He was also banned from Central Market, according to court records.
The sketch has brought Park more opportunity than she thought it would.
Park has copyrighted the image and had pins made showing the drawing. She was wearing one during her interview with LNP.
“He’s a persona now. Aside from whoever he was representing, he has his own thing,” Park said.
For fun, she’s started doing quick sketches of friends and famous figures. She’s also been commissioned to do some work.
Park said she wants to keep sketching people. She’ll accept photos at firstname.lastname@example.org. All she needs is five minutes, a black ink pen, and a front and side shot of a person.
In revealing her identify as the artist, Park also answered a lingering question: Why does the sketch only have one ear?
“You don’t need to draw both,” she said. “You know people have two.”