Florida’s state police agency released body camera footage recorded during a raid at data scientist Rebekah Jones’ Tallahassee home on Thursday, which shows armed officers executing a search warrant earlier this week.
The footage, broken into two parts, spans roughly 30 minutes. It sees authorities from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and Tallahassee Police remove Jones, her husband and young children from their residence before seizing belongings potentially related to an ongoing cybercrime investigation.
When officers enter Jones’ home and order her family to exit, at least one has his gun drawn. Jones, already standing beside police outside, is clearly distressed as this happens. A nearby officer tells her to “calm down” in response.
“That was not smart, what you’re doing,” he continues, seeming to reference her delay in approaching the door after police initially arrived.
Jones, the data scientist who previously operated Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard at the state’s Department of Health, was fired from her position last spring. Her subsequent suggestions that the dismissal, which officials attributed to “insubordination,” came after she refused to manipulate Florida’s COVID-19 data promptly made headlines. Jones has since become a vocal advocate for authentic coverage of the virus outbreak in Florida, and operates an independent dashboard where she tracks the state’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Florida state police released body camera footage recorded during a raid at the home of Rebekah Jones, the data scientist who operated Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard before her dismissal earlier this year, on Thursday. People line up at a walk-up COVID-19 testing site in Miami Beach, Florida on November 17, 2020. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
According to a statement issued by the FDLE alongside officers’ body camera footage, police obtained the search warrant as part of a wider inquiry into correspondence sent through a government messaging system last month. They say the individual responsible for the correspondence gained access to the system unlawfully. Messages that ultimately reached a large group of state government employees reportedly implored recipients to be transparent about how COVID-19 is impacting Floridians.
“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,” the message reportedly said, according to outlets who acquired copies of the affidavit. “You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
News of the raid that took place at Jones’ home on Monday morning rapidly circulated online in its aftermath, raising questions about police conduct and why Jones was implicated in the state’s investigation.
“At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech,” Jones wrote on Twitter Monday. “They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint. They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids..”
“This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly,” she added in an additional tweet. “This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”
There will be no update today.
At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech.
They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.
They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.. pic.twitter.com/DE2QfOmtPU
— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
The data scientist shared a short video clip, taken from a personal recording device, that showed an officer pointing his gun at her staircase while instructing her family members to exit the house. Conflicting statements from the data scientist and police left details unclear regarding officers’ use of their weapons during the raid. Neither body camera nor home surveillance footage captured officers’ interactions with Jones’ family as they ushered them from the house.
Newsweek reached out to the FDLE for additional information and comment.