FDLE commissioner defends agents’ actions in raid at home of ousted COVID-19 data curator

Department of Law Enforcement says its agents followed procedure when serving a search warrant at the home of fired state data scientist
Department of Law Enforcement says its agents followed procedure when serving a search warrant at the home of fired state data scientist

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement defended his agents’ actions last week when they served a search warrant at the home of a woman fired earlier this year from her job as COVID-19 data curator.

FDLE said its agents waited for more than 20 minutes before Rebekah Jones, suspected of sending an unauthorized message on a state platform, opened the door for officers to serve a search warrant. On body camera video, she is heard saying, “He just pointed a gun at my children.”

On Tuesday, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen pushed back, saying, “Nowhere in any one of those videos did you see an agent pointing a gun at a child’s head.”

Now, the FDLE is saying it is standard procedure for guns to be drawn every time a search warrant is served.

“During that 23 minutes, every hard drive in that apartment could have been wiped,” said Swearingen.“They could have been arming themselves. They could have been barricading themselves.”

FDLE said Jones has a history of attacking law enforcement, citing an incident in 2016 when she refused to leave her office at Louisiana State University after being dismissed.

“When he advised her she was under arrest, she resisted. She kicked him in the groin,” Swearingen said.

And Jones continues to fight a 2019 misdemeanor stalking charge.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday praised the way agents acted.

“I mean, when they are smeared unfairly, that’s not something that we want,” DeSantis said.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who oversees FDLE as a Cabinet member, has doubts.

“And when there are children in the home, the highest level of concern needed to have been addressed,” said Fried.

FDLE would not comment on the specifics of the case, saying only the investigation is ongoing.

Jones did not return Capitol News Service’s text or call seeking a response.