Child porn sting arrest after 'coathook' cams found in Opelika r - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Child porn sting arrest after 'coathook' cams found in Opelika restrooms

Kirsten Dowdell. (Source: Opelika Police Department) Kirsten Dowdell. (Source: Opelika Police Department)
A photo of the cameras similarly used. (Source: Opelika Police Department) A photo of the cameras similarly used. (Source: Opelika Police Department)

OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - A joint task force between the Opelika Police Department, the Auburn Police Department, and the FBI have led to the arrest of a child pornography suspect who allegedly placed hidden cameras in public bathrooms in Opelika and Auburn. 

During a press conference on Thursday, Opelika Police Chief John H. McEachern III said the suspect placed several hidden cameras in public restrooms in Opelika and Auburn, including the men's bathroom at Opelika High Schools Bulldog stadium and inside the men's restroom at Auburn's Shug Jordan soccer field.

Kirston Jermaine Dowdell, 31, of Opelika, was arrested for this crime and is being held at the Lee County Jail without bond. He is being charged with manufacturing of child pornography and aggravated criminal surveillance. 

Investigators seized media and turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mobile Office, for computer forensic examination. The FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force is now leading the investigation. 

The investigation shows there are less than two dozen child victims from the evidence found, and investigators are working to identify and notify the victims at this time. 

The first complaint was made on Oct. 13 when someone reported a hidden camera at Opelika High School's football stadium was reported to the Opelika Police Department officer while both were at an Opelika Middle School football game. Two camera were found in the men's restroom, with one found on the wall behind a toilet in a stall. The cameras, according to an affidavit charging crime document, says that the cameras were placed to observe people using the bathroom.

It is unclear how long the cameras were up in the bathrooms, but Dowdell later wrote a statement saying he placed the cameras in the bathrooms and had the videos from those cameras on his laptop and a flash drive at home. He also allowed investigators to search his home, where they found videos and photos of both male children and adults.

Dowdell also told investigators that his laptop contained child porn that he had downloaded from the internet. Three of the images found on his laptop were sent to him from an unknown person and he downloaded them. Dowdell obtained the images through a website called Bearshare, which is a peer-to-peer file sharing application, the court documents said. 

Other devices were found hidden cameras Shug Jordan soccer field men's bathroom, Opelika Bulldogs Stadium football field men's bathroom and another undetermined location. 

All cameras are believed to have been reported and investigators believe the videos have not been shared on the internet or with others. 

The device is a Covert Coat Hook-style hidden camera with built-in DVR and an SD card slot in the back. 

The FBI wants anyone who has come in contact with or has any information about Dowdell, they request that you come forward. Contact them at Opelika.victim@ic.fbi.gov. 

Opelika's chief of police did not give any other details about the case at this time due to the sensitive nature of this case. 

A spokesperson from Opelika City Schools released a statement about the investigation, and said:

Once the Opelika City Schools were informed about the location of the camera by the Opelika Police Department, all schools and facilities were immediately checked and no other devices were found.  The Opelika City Schools will continue to monitor our schools and facilities to ensure the safety of our children.

Auburn Police Chief Paul Register released a statement about the investigation, saying: 

We are working with OPD and the FBI to identify images of those on camera. We are thankful for this point that no images appear to have been shared or uploaded. The Police Division has been in communication with School and Parks and Recreation officials; measures have been taken to ensure that no devices are present at either of their venues. Chief McEachern and his staff did a great job of identifying Dowdell so quickly.

Check back for more details. 

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