Rebekah Jones, the former Florida official who says she was ousted from her job managing the state’s COVID-19 data for refusing to censor and alter case information, said Monday that armed officers raided her Tallahassee home and took all of her tech hardware.
Jones, who was fired in May from her job in which she led data scientists and public health experts at Florida’s Department of Health, posted a video she captured of the Monday morning incident in which at least four officers entered with a warrant on her computer.
“He just pointed a gun at my children,” Jones yells in the footage after telling the officers that her husband and two kids are also in the house.
After her ouster in the spring, Jones went public with allegations that her superiors had told her to put misleading and false information on the public-facing COVID-19 dashboard, which people could use to track data about coronavirus infections in Florida.
The information they asked her to post would have over-counted the number of COVID-19 tests performed and under-counted the total number of cases, she said, as Florida rushed to reopen its economy. She also said she was asked to remove evidence of people testing positive for the virus in January.
She has since launched her own coronavirus dashboard, where she has been posting daily updates on case counts. The police took the phone and computer she uses to post that information, she said, telling her they were related to a security breach and a complaint filed by Florida’s health department.
Jones accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of sending the police to her house. When reached for comment, his office directed HuffPost to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The FDLE provided a statement about the incident to U.S. News and World Report, saying it’s still an active investigation.
“This morning FDLE served a search warrant at a residence on Centerville Court in Tallahassee, the residence of Rebekah Jones,” the statement said. “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 on Centerville Court illegally accessed the system.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen sent HuffPost a second statement later on Monday evening, saying the officers searched Jones’ home after an investigation found that someone at her residence had hacked into the state’s emergency alert system.
He also stated that Jones “refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung-up on agents.” The video Jones posted shows her opening the door with her hands in the air and cooperating with the officers’ requests to step outside.
Swearingen disputed Jones’ claim that the officers pointed guns at her and her children. But Jones’ video indicates that they may have pointed weapons in her family’s general direction. When the officers enter the house, one demands her husband come downstairs while another points what appears to be a firearm directly to the top of the staircase.
Jones said she’ll return to work running her dashboard on Tuesday.
“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,” she tweeted. “I’ll have a new computer tomorrow. And then I’m going to get back to work.”
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