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FDLE releases video from raid at former Florida coronavirus dashboard worker's home

Agents say Rebekah Jones' IP address is linked to a text message improperly sent to members of the State Emergency Response Team.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is publicly fighting back after it says its agents were "vilified" in the days since they raided the home of Rebekah Jones, the former Florida coronavirus dashboard worker who was ousted earlier in the pandemic. 

FDLE says the search warrant was legal, and "inaccurate and incomplete" statements from other people have caused its agents to receive backlash this week. In response, the agency on Thursday released two body camera videos taken from outside Jones' home.

"FDLE is comfortable with the release of this video because it will not interfere with the cybercrime investigation," the agency wrote in a statement.

Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the video shows that FDLE agents "exercised extreme patience" when dealing with Jones.

"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," Swearingen said. "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."

The body camera video begins at 8:25 a.m. Monday when a female Tallahassee police officer and a male FDLE agent approached Jones' door. A minute later, they can be heard knocking and ringing the doorbell.

The agents attempted to minimize the disruption to her kids and tried to speak with Jones at her door to explain the search warrant, FDLE said. At 8:31 a.m., authorities went to the back of the home and say they spotted Jones' husband going upstairs.

For 23 minutes, agents were outside. They say Jones did not cooperate despite several phone calls to her.

When they finally went inside, authorities say they saw Jones' camera pointed toward the front door. That video was not seized.

Additionally, investigators say electronics belonging to Jones' husband and children were examined at the home but determined not to be related to the investigation. Thus, they were not seized.

FDLE did, however, remove hardware belonging to Jones. It says the hardware was taken as part of an investigation into the illegal hacking of the state's emergency alert system.

That investigation began after an emergency text message was improperly sent on Nov. 10. It urged people "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."  

Authorities say their investigation traced the IP address back to Jones. 

Jones has denied involvement in the text message.

“I am proud of the way these FDLE agents performed," Swearingen said. "I can only hope those same individuals who criticized these public safety heroes will now apologize and condemn the actions of Ms. Jones. The media should also demand Ms. Jones release the entirety of the video she recorded while agents were present in her home.”

Late Thursday afternoon, Jones used Twitter to respond to FDLE's release of the videos.

"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?" Jones tweeted.

"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???" she added.

At a news conference Friday morning in Tampa, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about the situation.

“It was not a raid. These people did their jobs. They’ve been smeared as the Gestapo for doing their jobs," Desantis told reporters. "They did a search warrant. Why did they do a search warrant on the house? Because her IP address was linked to a felony. What were they supposed to do? Just ignore it?”

The governor defended the actions of the officers who served the warrant, saying Jones was not cooperative.

“They went, they followed protocol. We actually have video from the Tallahassee PD showing that they were very respectful," DeSantis said. "She was not cooperative. It was not a raid. They were serving valid process in accordance with the laws and Constitution of the United and the state of Florida. They did it with integrity. To say it is a raid is disinformation.”

You can watch the body camera videos below.

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