Florida police have released bodycam footage of the raid on the home of a health department data scientist turned whistleblower who claims she was fired for refusing to make the state’s COVID-19 data look better.
Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) carried out a search warrant on Rebekah Jones’s home in Tallahassee, Florida, Monday morning, as part of its investigation into an illegal hack of the state’s emergency health alert system.
Jones, 30, released her own footage of the raid on social media Monday and accused agents of acting like the ‘gestapo’ and drawing their guns on her children.
The FDLE said it was releasing the 30-minute video taken from the body-worn camera of one of its officers Thursday to show agents ‘exercised extreme patience’ and that ‘any risk or danger’ to Jones or her family ‘was the result of her actions’.
The footage shows agents knocking on the door and trying to access the home for more than 20 minutes before Jones exits with her hands in the air.
Jones has been under investigation since last month when someone illegally accessed Florida’s emergency alert health system and sent a message from it.
She denies any involvement in the incident.
The data scientist was credited with leading a team in the creation Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard early on in the pandemic.
She was fired soon after. Jones claims she was asked to leave in May because she refused to fudge the state’s infection numbers. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says she was fired because of ‘insubordination’.
Florida police have released bodycam footage of the raid on the home of Rebekah Jones, a health department data scientist turned whistleblower who claims she was fired for refusing to make the state’s COVID-19 data look better
The bodycam footage begins at the end of the driveway of Jones’s family home as the officer walks past a car and pumpkins left over from Halloween to meet a male colleague near the door.
‘How are you this morning?’ the male officer asks.
‘I’m doing good, how are you?’ responds the female voice behind the bodycam.
‘Good,’ he replies, before pressing the front doorbell.
The two officers wait a few moments and then knock on the door.
After waiting a little longer, they knock again and the female officer peers through the window.
They knock again and are heard discussing whether anyone is in the home.
‘It’s weird because I don’t even hear the dog,’ the female officer says at one point.
The male officer says he is going to ‘walk around’ the side of the home for signs of anyone inside.
He comes back to say he is going to knock on the back door while the other officer keeps knocking on the front door.
After some time, they say they can see the dog inside the home jumping up at the window.
Twenty minutes later, more agents are outside and no one has answered the door, despite repeatedly knocking on the door.
Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) carried out a search warrant on Rebekah Jones’s home in Tallahassee, Florida, Monday morning
The footage shows agents knocking on the door and trying to access the home for more than 20 minutes
Jones finally opens the front door and comes out of the property with her hands in the air. It is around 22 minutes since the start of the footage
‘Do not point that gun at my children? He just pointed a gun at my children?’ Jones shouts into the home at the agents
Jones’s family also come out of the property after agents repeatedly shout for them to come downstairs
Jones says her ‘lawyer told us not to answer the door to you’ after ‘the last time you guys came’
Officers discuss being aware that people are inside the property saying they heard a child.
‘They know we’re here,’ one of the officers says, as they discuss breaking down the door.
Another officer starts knocking and shouting: ‘Police. Search warrant. Open the door.’
After he does this multiple times, a woman’s voice is heard shouting.
It is difficult to make out what she says but at one point she says: ‘We haven’t done anything’ as the agent says: ‘Open the door now.’
Jones opens the front door. It is around 22 minutes since the start of the footage.
‘Come outside,’ they tell her, as she walks out the house with her arms in the air.
‘Who else is in the house?’ an agent asks.
‘My two children and my husband,’ Jones replies. ‘You want the children now?’
An agent moves her to the side as other agents enter the property and are heard shouting to ‘come downstairs now’.
‘Do not point that gun at my children? He just pointed a gun at my children?’ Jones shouts into the home.
‘Search warrant. Come downstairs now,’ an agent inside the home shouts.
‘He’s pointing a gun at the stairs. There are children up there,’ Jones says.
The raid was part of an investigation into an illegal hack of the state’s emergency health alert system. Pictured Jones
An agent again shouts for Jones’s husband to come downstairs.
Jones leans into the house and encourages her husband to comply: ‘Jake just come down the stairs carefully. Hold the baby Jackson don’t move.’
‘They pointed a gun up the stairs at my children,’ she says.
Another officer then tells her to ‘calm down’.
‘That was not smart what you were doing. You need to calm down and get your head up as right now you’re making all the wrong decisions,’ he says.
‘Do you see what I’m telling you? I spoke to you on the phone and told you who I was and that you needed to come to the door.
‘There is no need for all this.’
Jones’s husband and two young children leave the property and come outside.
‘Why are you here?’ Jones then asks an agent.
‘I’m going to explain everything to you and why we’re here but right now, we’re off to a pretty rocky start,’ the agent replies.
‘All you had to do was answer the door. There was no doubt who we were.’
Jones says her ‘lawyer told us not to answer the door to you’ after ‘the last time you guys came’.
The agent says he ‘doesn’t know anything about that’.
Jones asks the agent what they are looking for and he says he will explain everything.
Jones then re-enters the home when agents ask if her dog bites. She is seen calmly walking out of her home and down the driveway with agents a few minutes later.
Jones, 30, released her own footage (above) of the raid on social media Monday
Jones said FDLE agents arrived around 8.30am to take ‘all [her] hardware and tech’ from inside the Tallahassee, Florida, home
Agents seized Jones’s computer equipment in the raid.
They did not seize the video camera Jones used to film the agents or any devices belonging to Jones’ husband or children because they were are not connected to the investigation, police said.
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement Thursday that ‘this video demonstrates that FDLE agents exercised extreme patience’.
‘Search warrants are one of the most dangerous events a law enforcement officer will engage in, and many officers are killed each year during the execution of search warrants,’ he continued.
‘Agents afforded Ms. Jones ample time to come to the door and resolve this matter in a civil and professional manner.
‘As this video will demonstrate, any risk or danger to Ms. Jones or her family was the result of her actions.’
He added that he was releasing the footage ‘because it will not interfere with the cybercrime investigation.’
‘I am proud of the way these FDLE agents performed.
‘I can only hope those same individuals who criticized these public safety heroes will now apologize and condemn the actions of Ms. Jones,’ he said.
Swearingen then said ‘the media should also demand Ms. Jones release the entirety of the video she recorded while agents were present in her home.’
Jones had posted her own footage of the encounter on social media Monday, claiming agents pointed a gun at her and her children.
Swearingen has denied this happened and there was no evidence of this in the footage aside from Jones repeatedly saying she saw them do it.
Jones accused agents of acting like the ‘gestapo’ and drawing their guns on her children
‘At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech. They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint,’ Jones wrote on Twitter next to the 30-second clip of footage.
‘They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.’
Her footage shows Jones pulling open the home’s front door to reveal an armed and uniformed FDLE agent.
The agent orders her outside before asking who else is in the home. When she responds her husband and children, the agent approaches the staircase and shouts for the husband to come downstairs.
‘Police! Come down, now! Search warrant,’ the agent yells, pointing his firearm towards the staircase.
When agent tells Jones to calm down, she shouts: ‘He just pointed a gun at my children!’
‘They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country. They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach,’ Jones wrote on Twitter.
‘This was DeSantis. He sent the gestapo,’ she wrote.
‘This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power. I tell them my husband and my two children are upstairs… and THEN one of them draws his gun. On my children. This is Desantis’ Florida.’
The FDLE said it was releasing the 30-minute video taken from the body-worn camera of one of its officers Thursday to show agents ‘exercised extreme patience’ and that ‘any risk or danger’ to Jones or her family ‘was the result of her actions’
Jones has been under investigation since last month when someone illegally accessed Florida’s emergency alert health system and sent a message from it. She denies any involvement in the incident
In her final Tweet, she alleged that the raid was conducted as a way to silence her.
‘If Desantis thought pointing a gun in my face was a good way to get me to shut up, he’s about to learn just how wrong he was,’ wrote Jones.
‘I’ll have a new computer tomorrow. And then I’m going to get back to work.’
The FDLE said it issued the search warrant after suspecting Jones of hacking into the state health department website and sending an unauthorized message after she was fired months earlier.
The message was sent to members of the State Emergency Response Team that coordinates public health and medical responses on November 10.
She created Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard but was fired soon after. Jones claims she was asked to leave because she refused to fudge the state’s infection numbers
It told them to ‘speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.’
Jones denied being involved and told reporters that she didn’t know ‘how to do that stuff.’
An FDLE spokesperson addressed the search warrant in a statement to Tallahassee Democrat Monday evening.
‘FDLE began an investigation November 10, 2020, after receiving a complaint from the Department of Health regarding unauthorized access to a Department of Health messaging system which is part of an emergency alert system, to be used for emergencies only.
‘Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung-up on agents. After several attempts and verbal notifications that law enforcement officers were there to serve a legal search warrant, Ms. Jones eventually came to the door and allowed agents to enter. Ms. Jones’ family was upstairs when agents made entry into the home.
‘As in all cases, our role is to determine the facts of what happened and a State Attorney determines whether or not charges are filed.’
Earlier this year, Jones received national recognition for her work in leading the team responsible for creating Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard while working with the Department of Health.
She was fired from her geographic information system manager position because because she ‘exhibited a repeated course of insubordination’ and made ‘unilateral decisions… without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors,’ according to Governor DeSantis’s office at the time.
But Jones claimed that she was fired for refusing to manipulate Florida’s Covid-19 health data to paint a more optimistic picture.
Jones has written blog posts and reached out to media outlets and researchers sowing doubt about the credibility of the data and criticizing the state’s handling of the pandemic now that she is no longer in that role.
The data was crucial as the governor was trying to make highly controversial decisions on whether to reopen Florida’s economy
State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy.
Jones wrote a July Op-Ed in the Miami Herald the suggested state workers were being dissuaded from speaking out about the state’s data collection and response.
She has since created her own nationwide Covid-19 dashboard.