Florida state police released body camera videos Thursday afternoon showing officers waiting before they entered the home of a former state data scientist and the testy confrontation that followed when she exited – providing new context about a controversial police raid that has attracted national attention this week.
Officers were serving a search warrant Monday morning at the home of Rebekah Jones, a coronavirus data scientist who was fired from the state and has accused Florida officials of covering up the extent of the pandemic.
The state Department of Law Enforcement is investigating whether Jones illegally accessed a state messaging system to send her former colleagues a message urging them to speak out about coronavirus deaths. Jones, who has feuded with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for months, has denied sending the message.
The two videos released by the department show that Jones didn’t exit her Tallahassee home until about 23 minutes after officers first rang the doorbell, and 15 minutes after they first announced themselves as police. Jones has claimed authorities waited 13 minutes while she got dressed.
Officers are seen calling Jones’ cell phone to ask her to leave the house, while one holds a large hammer.
“Police search warrant, open the door!” officers yell several times. “Make sure the whole block hears us,” one agent tells his colleagues.
As Jones exits her house, one officer with his gun drawn appears to point the weapon in her direction, although it’s unclear whether anyone pointed a firearm six inches from Jones’ face, as she has claimed in interviews with CNN. Officers are seen holding her by her back and her arms as she shouts at them not to point a gun at her children.
One of the officers scolds Jones for taking so long after she leaves the house.
“That was not smart what you are doing,” the officer tells Jones. “You need to calm down and get your head (inaudible) because you are making all the wrong decisions.”
“All you had to do was answer the door – there was no doubt who we were,” the officer said.
Jones replies that her lawyer had previously told her not to answer the door. She seems confused about what officers want. “What are they looking for? Are they looking for a person?” she asked at one point.
Law enforcement department Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement that “this video demonstrates that FDLE agents exercised extreme patience.”
“Agents afforded Ms. Jones ample time to come to the door and resolve this matter in a civil and professional manner,” Swearingen said. “As this video will demonstrate, any risk or danger to Ms. Jones or her family was the result of her actions.”
But Jones, who has said she delayed in answering the door because she was getting dressed, responded on Twitter on Thursday that the videos prove she was cooperating.
Officers “were ready to break my door down with a sledgehammer,” she wrote. “This is ‘restraint?’ Really???”
The footage released so far mostly shows interactions outside Jones’ home, although officers did enter and search the house. Jones has said that officers in the house pointed guns at her 2- and 11-year-old children and her husband, which the department has denied, and released her own video of the raid showing officers inside with guns drawn. It’s unclear whether those officers were also wearing body cameras.
In other developments, Jones has now raised more than $200,000 on a GoFundMe page that she says will be used for her legal defense and for “moving expenses so my family can get out of the Governor’s reach.”