State law enforcement agents waited about 20 minutes outside the home of Rebekah Jones, an ex-health department employee, Monday before serving her with a search warrant, body camera video released from the FDLE Thursday shows.
Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May for unauthorized public comments about the state’s COVID-19 data. She is credited with creating the state dashboard detailing Florida coronavirus data. According to FDLE, she has been under investigation since early November when someone illegally accessed the state’s emergency alert health system.
Since her firing, she has lit up social media with posts criticizing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his state agencies.
Agents served the search warrant on her Tallahassee home after receiving a complaint from the Department of Health regarding unauthorized access to its emergency alert system, according to a statement from FDLE.
Jones initially refused to answer the door for 20 minutes and hung up when agents called her, according to FDLE.
“That was not smart what you’re doing, OK, you need to calm down and get your head put on right now because you’re making all the wrong decisions,” the video shows an officer say to Jones. “I’m going to explain everything to you about why we’re here, but right now we’re off to a pretty rocky start. All you had to do was answer the door. There was no doubt who we were.”
According to video footage Jones posted of the incident, multiple officers who entered Jones’ home had their guns drawn. One pointed his gun up the stairs as authorities urged Jones to call her husband and children downstairs. The officer then lowered his weapon after Jones yelled, “Do not point that gun at my children!”
“They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids,” Jones later tweeted.
The FDLE has disputed Jones’ claim that agents pointed their guns at her children. On Thursday, FDLE released two body camera videos totaling about 30 minutes showing Tallahassee police and FDLE agents trying to serve Jones with a search warrant for her electronics.
FDLE Commissioner Richard Swearingen said in a statement the agency released the video to show “FDLE agents exercised extreme patience” and agents had been “vilified over the past few days.”
“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,” Swearingen said. “The media should also demand Ms. Jones release the entirety of the video she recorded while agents were present in her home.”
During the first seven-minute video, officers don’t hear “a peep” from inside the home. One of the agents even remarks in disbelief that the family dog isn’t barking. There is a “husky on guard” sign next to the front door.
“How long have we been here that he hasn’t been barking?” an agent asks. “Mine would be off the chain right about now.”
Agents rang the doorbell several times but no noise can be heard from inside the home, according to the video.
The second video is about 23 minutes and shows police trying to contact Jones. Multiple calls to Jones’ phone number went to voicemail.
Agents can be heard discussing that there are likely children in the home.
Eventually, an agent repeatedly bangs on the door saying “search warrant” and has a hammer in his hand. He does not use it.
More than 20 minutes later, Jones comes out with her hands up and agents can be heard telling her family to come downstairs. The video does not show inside the home at that time. Later in the video, a police officer enters the home but that portion was redacted.
“Why is he pointing a gun upstairs? There are children up there,” Jones asked.
Jones previously released video from inside the home showing agents walk inside with guns drawn but it does not show upstairs.
Jones’ husband also came outside carrying their 2-year-old and their 11-year-old walked outside where agents were standing.
When Jones asked what they were searching for, an agent told her they “were not purposely keeping her in the dark” and would “explain everything.”
Jones told the agent she was told by her lawyer not to answer the door “the last time you guys came.”
The former Department of Health employee was quick to react to the video’s release and the FDLE’s statements about her actions.
Less than an hour after the video was made public, Jones tweeted, “Bodycam footage released by police shows they waited about 13 minutes outside while I got dressed, and were ready to break my door down with a sledgehammer. At 13:48, an officer is shown pointing a gun at my face. They thought this would... help them? It also shows me coming out with my arms up, cooperating, with my husband coming down the stairs with my two year old in his arms. My video from inside showed them pointing the guns right at them. This is ‘restraint?’ Really???”