TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Thursday released about 30 minutes of police body camera footage depicting portions of the state police raid of the Tallahassee home of Rebekah Jones, the former Florida Department of Health data analyst turned whistle blower.
The two files, one seven minutes and the other 23 minutes, appear to be the footage of a Tallahassee Police officer who assisted the search but who stood mostly outside Jones’ home as FDLE officers entered to execute the search warrant of Jones’ computer equipment after police suspected her or sending an unauthorized email to the state emergency messaging system.
The footage does not depict the controversial footage of officers pointing their guns at the ceiling as they called for Jones’ husband to come down the stairs.
That 30-second home video was recorded by Jones using a camera on a bookshelf pointed at the front door. It showed agents entering her home with guns drawn.
The new video does not appear to show police pointing their guns at anyone in the house but Jones claimed on Twitter that the agents “pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.”
The FDLE said agents did not point their guns at anyone as they executed the search warrant.
A statement released with the video by FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the video “demonstrates that FDLE agents exercised extreme patience.”
The video files are in two parts, according to FDLE’s press release, because of a brief interruption in the feed:
What body cam video shows
The video shows officers waiting outside Jones’ home for about 23 minutes, peering into her window, and attempting to get her to answer her phone and the door. They speak about how they saw a child through the window and assess whether they will have to break the door to enter. The video also shows two officers attempting to call Jones to answer the door.
At about 15 minutes into the event, after police shout several times: “Police, search warrant, open the door,” Jones answers the door and immediately steps outside with her hands above her head.
As two officers officer went inside looking for her family, two other officers stayed with Jones outside.
“Do not point that gun at my children!” Jones shouted at the officer inside. “He just pointed a gun at my children!”
She turned to another officer, wide-eyed: “Why is he pointing a gun up the stairs? There are children up there.” She added: “Jake, just come down the stairs carefully,” she said, referring to her husband.
About a minute later, her husband appears with their 2-year-old son in his arms and walks outside along with their 11-year-old son.
Jones then turned to another FDLE officer and said: “He pointed a gun up the stairs at my children.”
The officer then tried to calm Jones down: “That was not smart, what you’re doing, OK? You need to calm down and get your head on right now because you’re making all the wrong decisions,’' he said. “You understand what I’m telling you? I spoke to you on the phone, I told you who I was, and you needed to come to the door. All you needed to do is answer the door. There was no doubt who we are.”
Jones replied: “We were told not to answer the door for you. Our lawyer told us not to answer the door to you.”
The officer continued: “Just now, the lawyer told you don’t answer the door?”
She answered: “No, the last time that you guys came.”
The officer said he didn’t “know anything about that, when we were here last or who was here last. That has nothing to do with us.”
He then added: “It would have been infinitely preferable if you had just come to the door without the kids being a part of this.”
The allegations about Jones
The state suspects Jones, a former Department of Health employee who was fired in May after accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration of manipulating COVID-19 data, of using old login credentials to gain “unauthorized access” to an employee messaging platform to send a group text. The Nov. 10 message urged employees to “speak up” about COVID-19.
She has not been charged with a crime, and she denies sending the email on Nov. 10.
Swearingen defended the actions of the police which have been criticized for excessive display of force considering the potential severity of the crime.
“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 said 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.”
Jones said she filmed the entire time agents were at her home but refused to release the full footage when asked by the Times/Herald for evidence of the moment in which agents pointed guns at people.
Swearingen said police spotted the camera which appeared to be recording them but did not seize it.
The FDLE said the body camera video starts at 8:25 a.m., when a female Tallahassee Police officer and male FDLE agent approach the door. At 8:26 a.m. they began ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door and attempted to speak with Jones to “minimize disruption to the children.”
The statement said agents went to the back of the house at 8:31 a.m. and “saw Ms. Jones’ husband going upstairs.
Swearingen said he was “proud of the way these FDLE agents performed” and urged the media to “demand Ms. Jones release the entirety of the video she recorded while agents were present in her home.”
“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.
Jones said she did not want to release the full video because it showed her children’s faces, and she wanted to protect their privacy. The body camera footage released to the public by the state blurred the faces of her children.
The body camera footage does not provide any additional evidence to confirm or deny the story presented by state police about the use of guns inside.
Jones has denied that she refused to open the door. She said the delay was because she was getting dressed because she feared she would be arrested.
The search warrant was part of a state investigation into a cybersecurity crime that remains active.
“Speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late,” said the message, which was obtained and first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
State investigators say the IP address — essentially a digital fingerprint — that was used to send the unauthorized message led them to Jones’ Tallahassee home. FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said investigators subpoenaed Comcast to conclude it was Jones’ IP address.