LAKE MARY, Fla. - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) released body camera video from Dec. 7, the day officers executed a search warrant at the home of Rebekah Jones.
Jones, a former Florida Department of Health employee who was fired for unauthorized public comments about state COVID-19 data in May, has been under investigation since early November when someone illegally accessed the state’s emergency alert health system.
Jones was fired from her post in May after she raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data. She had been reprimanded several times and was ultimately dismissed for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.
In a statement, FDLE complained officers' actions at Jones' home -- part of which were shown by a video posted on Twitter by Jones -- have been "vilified over the past few days."
According to the search warrant, officers were investigating a Nov. 10 message sent to over 1,700 state employees which read, "It's time to 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." The state said its investigation found that the IP address used to log in using a shared username and password was connected to Jones' address.
In a Dec. 7 statement, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said agents announced themselves to Jones by phone and at the door "for 20 minutes" before Jones opened the door.
"After several attempts, Ms. Jones allowed agents inside. Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analyzed. At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home. Any evidence will be referred to the State Attorney for prosecution as appropriate," Swearingen's statement said.
FDLE says its body camera video shows Jones brought the situation upon herself.
"As this video will demonstrate, any risk or danger to Ms. Jones or her family was the result of her actions," an FDLE statement said. "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."
The lengthy video released by authorities on Thursday shows officers knocking on the door of Jones' Tallahassee home multiple times and attempting to call her before serving the search. Several portions of the audio are redacted and some of the video is blurred. At approximately 15 minutes into one of the body camera clips released by FDLE, Jones finally answers the door.
Jones has not been charged over the alleged unauthorized message. She told the Associated Press that she doesn't understand why the officers needed to raid her house with guns drawn.
Since her firing, Jones has lit up social media with posts criticizing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his state agencies. For months, she has tried to promote herself as a victim who was fired for telling the truth, although there is no evidence that supports her claims.
Early in the pandemic, Jones wrote blog posts and reached out to media outlets and researchers sowing doubt about the credibility of the data now that she is no longer in that role. She said Health Department managers urged her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture and that she pushed back. 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.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has previously said Jones had a pattern of “insubordination” and should have been fired sooner. When asked about the search at Jones' home following a panel discussion in Tampa on Friday decrying the stigma over mental health treatment, DeSantis said Jones “has issues.”
Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.
Some information taken from the Associated Press and FOX News.