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FDLE releases bodycam video from raid of former DOH worker’s home

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Thursday afternoon released video from its Monday...
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Thursday afternoon released video from its Monday raid on the home of Rebekah Jones, a former Department of Health worker who built the state COVID dashboard and says she was fired for refusing to manipulate data.(FDLE)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 5:21 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Thursday afternoon released video from its Monday raid on the home of Rebekah Jones, a former Department of Health worker who built the state COVID dashboard and says she was fired for refusing to manipulate data.

A statement from FDLE along with the video says its agents have been vilified regarding the legal search warrant executed at Jones’ home.

The video shows police officers and FDLE agents ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door of the home starting at 8:26 am Monday.

“Agents tried to minimize disruption to the children, attempting to speak with Ms. Jones at the door to explain the search warrant,” the FDLE statement says.

The video documents that the situation went on for 23 minutes, before Jones finally answered the door. Agents grab her and enter the home.

However, the video includes very little from inside the home. Jones has shared her own video showing agents drawing and pointing guns as they go into the home.

“Because of inaccurate and incomplete statements given by certain individuals, the body camera video taken from outside the home is being made available,” FDLE says.

“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,” said FDLE commissioner Rick Swearingen in the statement.

“No search warrant is routine or without potential officer safety issues regardless of the underlying crime. 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,” Swearingen says.

“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. The media should also demand Ms. Jones release the entirety of the video she recorded while agents were present in her home.”

Lawrence Walters, the lawyer representing Rebekah Jones, had a very different take on the video release.

“The FDLE appears to be in damage control mode, as it is highly unusual for the agency to release this kind of evidence of a search warrant execution to the public,” Walters said in a statement.

" The length of time it took to answer the door is no excuse for the reckless behavior demonstrated by the officers when they entered the house to seize data from a scientist. Rebekah had previously stated that she was getting dressed as she believed the agents were there to arrest her. It appears that FDLE is attempting to justify its actions by claiming our client did not answer the door as quickly as they would have liked,” Walters writes.

His statement goes on to point out an agent is seen pointing a gun at Rebekah through the window as soon as they heard her approach the door and it does not show all events that took place during the raid, including the agents seen pointing guns while inside the home in Jones’ own video of the incident.

Rebekah Jones was fired earlier this year after complaining that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration was manipulating COVID-19 data to make the virus appear less prevalent as the governor pushed to reopen Florida’s economy.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, Jones posted a tweet showing video of armed police entering her home and saying that agents pointed guns at her and her kids. She then turned to the media, conducting several interviews claiming Gov. Ron DeSantis was targeting her because she criticized the administration’s COVID response.

To watch the first part of this video, click here: https://vimeo.com/489556079.

To watch the second part of this video, click here: https://vimeo.com/489554493.

Read the full statement on the FDLE video release here:

The actions of Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents have been vilified over the past few days regarding the legal search warrant executed at the residence of Ms. Rebekah Jones. Because of inaccurate and incomplete statements given by certain individuals, the body camera video taken from outside the home is being made available. FDLE is comfortable with the release of this video because it will not interfere with the cybercrime investigation.

Commissioner Swearingen stated, “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. No search warrant is routine or without potential officer safety issues regardless of the underlying crime. 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.

“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. The media should also demand Ms. Jones release the entirety of the video she recorded while agents were present in her home.”

The body camera video starts at 8:25 a.m., when a female Tallahassee Police Department officer and male FDLE agent approach the door. At 8:26, they began ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door. During the initial approach, agents tried to minimize disruption to the children, attempting to speak with Ms. Jones at the door to explain the search warrant. At approximately 8:31, agents went to the back of the house and saw Ms. Jones’ husband going upstairs. The situation continued for 23 minutes without cooperation of Ms. Jones, including several phone calls to her.

Upon entry into Ms. Jones’ residence, agents observed a video camera, pointed in the direction of the front door, which appeared to be recording the entire time the agents were inside the residence. The video, property of Ms. Jones, was not seized during the search warrant. Electronic devices belonging to Ms. Jones’ children and husband were forensically examined on scene and determined to have no investigative value. Those devices were not seized in an effort to minimize disruption to the family.

Read the statement by Rebekah Jones’ attorney Lawrence Walters here:

The FDLE appears to be in damage control mode, as it is highly unusual for the agency to release this kind of evidence of a search warrant execution to the public. The length of time it took to answer the door is no excuse for the reckless behavior demonstrated by the officers when they entered the house to seize data from a scientist. Rebekah had previously stated that she was getting dressed as she believed the agents were there to arrest her. It appears that FDLE is attempting to justify its actions by claiming our client did not answer the door as quickly as they would have liked.

The video shows the phone calls going to voice mail. It is inexcusable that FDLE is publishing our client’s personal telephone number on this video, thereby putting her at substantial personal risk.

Importantly, the FDLE video confirms that an agent pointed a gun at Rebekah through the window as soon as they heard her approach the door. This confirms our client’s version of the events.

The video does not show all events that took place during the raid and does not contradict the aggressive actions which were clearly displayed on our client’s video capture.

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