Florida police raid home of former state Covid-19 data scientist
Rebekah Jones, a former State of Florida public health employee who was fired in the spring by Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted video on Monday of police officers raiding her home at gunpoint.
Jones, who had created the state’s original COVID-19 informational dashboard, had since created her own website with information of Florida’s coronavirus cases, hospital load and deaths.
During the raid, Jones said that officers seized her computer equipment. Despite not having the equipment, Jones said she will have a new computer by Tuesday in order to update her website.
According to an affidavit from the Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement, the state’s public health department had sent a notice to law enforcement as part of an investigation over unauthorized access to a state messaging system.
The affidavit claims that an unidentified subject accessed a group tied to the state’s emergency alert system on November 10. The subject sent a group text saying “it’s time 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.”
The affidavit claims that the IP address where the message originated came from a computer at Jones’ address in Tallahassee.
Gretl Plessinger from Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement issued a statement on behalf of the agency.
“FDLE began an investigation November 10, 2020 after receiving a complaint from the Department of Health regarding unauthorized access to a Department of Health messaging system which is part of an emergency alert system, to be used for emergencies only. Agents believe someone at the residence… illegally accessed the system,” Plessinger said. “When agents arrived, they knocked on the door and called Ms. Jones in an attempt to minimize disruption to the family. Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung-up on agents. After several attempts and verbal notifications that law enforcement officers were there to serve a legal search warrant, Ms. Jones eventually came to the door and allowed agents to enter. Ms. Jones family was upstairs when agents made entry into the home.
Jones fired back at DeSantis’ administration.
“If DeSantis thought pointing a gun in my face was a good way to get me to shut up, he’s about to learn just how wrong he was,” Jones tweeted.
DeSantis decried Jones’ work, which boiled into a public spat between the two. Jones claimed that DeSantis did not want health officials to be transparent about the spread of the virus.
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