Officials release body camera footage in raid on fired top Florida data scientist

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the full body camera footage from the search warrant executed Monday at the home of fired top Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones, who helped build the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Jones alleges she was fired from her government job because she refused to manipulate data.

The more than 20 minutes of video released by the FDLE shows officers knocking on Jones’ door multiple times and attempting to call her before serving a search warrant Monday morning. FDLE said the officer and agent tried to minimize disruption to Jones’ children and attempted to speak with her at the door.

“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,” an officer said to Jones after she opened the door and law enforcement went inside with guns drawn. “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.”

The search warrant was executed on suspicion that Jones hacked into a state Department of Health communications system, said Rick Swearingen, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

An unauthorized text message was sent through the system in November to nearly 1,800 department employees, encouraging them to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,” according to a report last month by the Tampa Bay Times, which obtained the missive.

Swearingen said an investigation began last month after the state’s Department of Health filed a complaint saying it had been hacked. He said agents executed a search warrant at Jones’ home after investigators determined that the unauthorized message was sent from an IP address associated with her family internet account.

Jones, who has not been charged with any crime, said Thursday that she, her husband and two children were asleep when the officers arrived. Speaking in a YouTube interview with Florida Today, Jones said she needed to get dressed and told her husband to take the children upstairs because she thought the officers were arresting her and she didn’t want them to see that.

She said she doesn’t understand why the officers needed to raid her house with guns drawn.

“They pointed a gun at my face. They pointed guns at my kids,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

Jones set up a video camera before letting officers in, and exclaimed that they were pointing guns at her children. But bodycam video shows her husband and children leaving the house peacefully without guns drawn.

Swearingen said agents “seized several devices that will be forensically analyzed.” Jones, in a Twitter post, said her phone “and all my hardware and tech” were confiscated.

Swearingen, in his written statement, denied that agents pointed guns at anyone in the house.

“This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly,” Jones wrote. “This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”

Jones was fired from her Department of Health job in May. She has said she was dismissed because she would not manipulate data that would support the state’s reopening of the economy.

The office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in May defended Jones’ firing, telling the Miami Herald she had been insubordinate on numerous occasions, including unilaterally making changes to the state’s COVID dashboard.

On Tuesday, Ron Filipowski announced his resignation from the 12th Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission on Twitter on Tuesday, saying a raid at the home of Rebekah Jones was unconscionable. Filipowski was appointed to the position by the governor.

The released body camera footage can be viewed in the players above.

NewsNation affiliate WFLA, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


© 1998 - 2023 Nexstar Media Group Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation