Wick Communications

Clues to bigger stories

In Writing techniques on 30 Apr 2015 at 4:12 pm


The local constabulary sends me a daily list of arrests, traffic stops and other police activity. It’s maddeningly basic and I often have to call for more information. Sometimes it lists the names of those arrested. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Generally, I copy those names into a Google search. Why?

Exhibit A is Timothy Shawn Lybrand. As you can see in the image above, all I was offered was that this guy was a 52-year-old transient who was arrested on a warrant violation after a traffic stop. Pretty run of the mill, right?

Well, Google revealed that Lybrand was the captain of a shipwrecked fishing boat in August. An exhaustive Coast Guard search ended without a trace of the captain and many presumed he died off the coast of San Francisco. But the San Francisco district attorney didn’t buy that ending to the Lybrand story. Investigators noted that he was wanted for skipping court after drug charges and some were theorizing that Lybrand disappeared on purpose.

Review reporter Esther Hahn worked the story on Tuesday and we were alone with a fascinating tale of a guy who has been arrested by police across the Bay Area, sparked a furious ocean rescue effort and then turned up in our little burg. …

If I’d simply asked the PIO of the local sheriff’s office, she wouldn’t have known any of this. All she knew was they picked up a guy who was wanted by another jurisdiction. In fact, this guy disappeared in August, incurred a six-figure charge for environmental damage after his boat ran aground, and was arrested in October and November in other communities and it’s not clear that cops ever put two and two together until we Googled his name.

This isn’t rocket science and I know I’m not the only one who does this. I’m sure many cops reporters in the company routinely search the names of the arrested. It’s a good idea. If you aren’t doing that, you should start.



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