The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in Tallahassee released bodycam footage on Thursday taken from outside the home of Rebekah Jones. Earlier this week, authorities executed a search warrant on the former coronavirus data scientist who had accused government officials of attempting to manipulate coronavirus statistics. Jones, who said she refused to comply with the directives, was fired from her position by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in May.
“This video demonstrates that FDLE agents exercised extreme patience,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement along with the video’s release.
The footage shows that officers attempted to contact Jones for approximately 20 minutes prior to her opening the door. At one point two officers—one holding a large hammer, the other holding a gun—speak to Jones through an open window and demand she open the door. Soon thereafter Jones exits with her hands above her head. Moments later she looks into the house and yells “Do no point that gun at my children!” before exclaiming to an officer, “He just pointed a gun at my children!”
The officer whose body camera footage was released stayed outside for the duration of the raid, but Jones posted her own security camera footage on social media earlier this week.
Her footage from 8:30 a.m. Monday morning shows approximately 10 FDLE agents entering her house through the front door with guns brandished as they escorted Jones out of the house and asked who else was in the home. She told the officers that her husband and two children were inside. The officers then repeatedly shout “search warrant” and order the other occupants to come out of the house. You can hear Jones yell several times that the officers pointed their guns at her 2-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.
The officers were serving a warrant for Jones’s electronic equipment obtained after the Department of Health (DOH) filed a complaint related to an unauthorized user accessing DOH’s messaging system last month. A message sent through the system urged employees to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.” The username and password for the system was shared among several past and present users.
Jones—who has denied sending the message—responded to the release of the footage on Twitter.
“Bodycam footage released by police shows they waited about 13 minutes outside while I got dressed, and were ready to break my door down with a sledgehammer. At 13:48, an officer is shown pointing a gun at my face. They thought this would… help them?” she wrote “It also shows me coming out with my arms up, cooperating, with my husband coming down the stairs with my two year old in his arms. My video from inside showed them pointing the guns right at them. This is “restraint?” Really???”
Several cyber security experts have said the evidence used to justify the raid—an IP address associated with Jones’s home—was very shaky.
“It is well known that IP addresses can be spoofed. In other words, I can make an IP or I can make it look as though Internet traffic is coming from somewhere else,” Kevin Butler, the associate director of the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research and a professor of computer science at the University of Florida told Florida Today.
Butler told the outlet that making an IP address appear as though it’s coming from somewhere else is simple.
“These types of attacks are things that, you know, my students in my undergraduate security class are aware of how to do,” he said. “The idea that somebody would be immediately, or individually identifiable just sort of goes out the window with regards to a username and password. If those are all shared then holding any one person accountable based on the account details, it’s not possible.”
After the raid, Jones accused DeSantis of sending the “gestapo.” DeSantis denied through a spokesman that he had any involvement in the investigation.
“The Governor had no involvement in the investigation or any judicial proceeding attendant to any such investigation,” Fred Piccolo said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “The Department of Health alerted the FDLE to an unauthorized intrusion into a government information systems component. The FDLE investigated for weeks, culminating in the identification of the residence of the individual(s) involved. Only at that time would it have been known to be Ms. Jones’ home.”
A Republican lawyer and appointee of DeSantis resigned in protest after the raid.
“It just seems like it’s not really about any kind of criminal investigation,” Ron Filipkowski said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s about intimidation of her and sending a message to people currently working in state government that, ‘This could be you.’”
Judge Joshua Hawkes, the judge who signed off on the warrant, was appointed by DeSantis as recently as September.
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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