FDLE commissioner Rick Swearingen defends officers' actions during Rebekah Jones raid

Commissioner calls Gestapo comparision 'ridiculous'
Posted at 6:48 PM, Dec 15, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's state police commissioner pushed back against allegations Tuesday that his officers acted inappropriately at the home of a former state data analyst during the execution of a search warrant.

Rebekah Jones has said officers acted inappropriately when entering her Tallahassee home Dec. 7 with guns drawn. She likened them to Gestapo, which Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen found particularly offensive.

"The Gestapo dragged innocent men, women, and children out of their homes and murdered them," Swearingen said. "To compare agents lawfully executing a search warrant to the Gestapo is just ridiculous."

The search made national headlines after Jones posted a now-viral video of the event and alleged authorities pointed weapons at her children and husband.

It drew immediate scorn from her followers and Florida Democrats like state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who posted on Twitter: "Knowing that children were in the home, police should have exercised extreme caution."

It's unclear from Jones' 30-second clip whether children were ever in the crosshairs.

FDLE enter Rebekah Jones' home Dec. 7, 2020
Rebekah Jones recorded video of state law enforcement entering her home Dec. 7, 2020, which she later posted to her Twitter account.

Video from FDLE body cameras also fails to show any evidence. Swearingen told reporters it didn't happen. He also said having weapons drawn in this kind of situation is common practice.

"A police officer executing a search warrant is one of the most dangerous things that we will do in our jobs," said the commissioner. "I don't ever recall, during the execution of a search warrant, entering a facility without my gun drawn."

Jones is being investigated after someone breached state systems and messaged employees last month, urging them to speak out against the current state administration. Law enforcement said they traced an IP address used during the breach to Jones' address.

Jones helped create the state's COVID-19 dashboard and was terminated from the Florida Department of Health in May, shortly after alleging the state was softening its virus data. At the time, officials said her firing was for insubordination. Gov. Ron DeSantis called it a "non-issue."

In the months following, Jones has continued to criticize DeSantis and his handling of COVID-19, regularly speaking on national news outlets. She now alleges the police raid was the latest attempt by state officials to pressure her into silence.

Rebekah Jones, body camera video of raid
"He just pointed a gun at my children," Rebekah Jones says after state agents execute a search warrant at her Tallahassee home.

Jones told us recently she had nothing to do with the breach and that her skill set doesn’t include hacking.

"I don't know the first thing about computers," she said. "If something is wrong with your computer, I'm liable to make it worse."

Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation are nowcalling on Florida Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel to probe the raid and Jones' termination.

"During an exponentially worsening public health crisis, it is vital that our state government not erode the trust of Floridians and instead, provide transparency into these troubling reports," wrote the 11 members in a letter to Ms. Miguel. "Beyond the potential violation of Ms. Jones' rights, these actions may inflict deeper public harm by preventing other state employees from raising similar concerns about the validity of Florida's COVID data, and undermining public trust in the reliability of vital health reporting."

DeSantis has denied he knew Jones was involved before news of the search broke. He also has supported FDLE's actions.

Authorities have yet to charge Jones with a crime.