BRYAN, Texas - A longtime Bryan dentist and well known member of the community has been charged with felony improper photography, after telling police officers he taped a female employee changing in a bathroom.
Dr. William Reagan Birdwell, 67, was arrested Wednesday after an employee called Bryan police saying she'd found a camera in the employee changing room.
According to the arrest report, the female employee went in to change before going to the gym. Birdwell asked the employee if he could go into the bathroom before her, and the employee said yes. Moments later, Birdwell came back out.
The employee told officers the bathroom has cubby boxes for each of the employees. When she went back in, the employee started changing and removed her shirt. She noticed that Birdwell's box was pulled out and angled toward a large mirror in the bathroom. According to the report, she told officers that when she went to push the box back in to the cubby, she noticed the camcorder. The employee put her shirt back on and told a co-worker about the camera. She went back into the bathroom, took a picture of the camera with her cellphone and left the office.
According to authorities, the employee called her husband who told her to secure the camera until police could get there. She called a co-worker, who went to get the camera, but told her it was already gone. The co-worker told the employee that Birdwell went into the bathroom shortly after the employee left.
When Bryan Police officers got to the office, it was locked. According to the arrest report, they knocked on the door and Birdwell let them inside. The officers waited for a detective to get there before searching for the camera.
Once investigators arrived, they spoke with Birdwell privately. He told them that he shares an office with Dr. Stephen Robert Wright. Investigators say that, when asked why police might be there, Birdwell said officers told him an employee was uncomfortable because she found a camera in the bathroom. Throughout the conversation, Birdwell denied knowing how a camera would have gotten inside the bathroom, denied having a camcorder at the office and denied taking the camera out of the bathroom after the employee left. Investigators also asked if Birdwell had a camcorder in his car or office. He said he did not.
Police asked Birdwell how often he checks his cubby box. He told investigators that he didn't check it every day. He also said that the whole situation was very upsetting. He went on to tell the detectives that something like this would "destroy him and his family." He went on to say that he made a bad mistake and that he was on the state board of dental examiners and he investigated dentists for this type of thing.
Dr. Birdwell and Dr. Wright both consented to having their shared office searched. Officers didn't find a camcorder. According to authorities, when they searched the bathroom again, they found a camcorder in the pocket of some scrubs next to the cubby holes. Investigators said that, at the point, Birdwell stuck his head back into the bathroom and asked them how all of this would “play out." Investigators said they just found the camera and that's when Birdwell told them “I was ready to tell you that I definitely did it."
Investigators say the camera contained two videos of the female employee changing on two separate occasions. The second video was from Wednesday and showed Birdwell adjusting the camera in the same clothes as when officers arrived.
Birdwell was arrested and charged with improper visual recording. He has since been released on a personal bond.
Bryan police say the investigation is ongoing. At this time, there are no additional known victims.
Dr. Wright, Birdwell's partner in the dental practice, released the following statement Thursday afternoon in response to Birdwell's arrest:
"The staff of Birdwell & Wright Family and Cosmetic Dentistry and I were both surprised and saddened to learn of the recent events involving Dr. Birdwell. Our hearts and prayers go out to all involved, including our staff member and her family as well as the Birdwell family. My staff and I remain committed to providing quality dental care to our patients in and around Brazos County. We will continue to act with care, concern, compassion, and integrity to all of those that have entrusted us with their dental needs."