Florida police raid home of fired health dept. data scientist who built state’s COVID-19 tracker

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Police in Florida conducted a raid on Monday at the home of a former Florida Department of Health employee who built the state’s COVID-19 case tracker only to be fired earlier this year for alleged insubordination.

The former employee, Rebekah Jones, published footage on her Twitter account which showed officers with their guns drawn entering the house. The former state employee said the officers “pointed a gun in my face” and “pointed guns at my kids” during the encounter. Jones claimed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of ordering the raid, claiming the Republican “sent the gestapo” to silence her.

 

“This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger confirmed officers carried out a search warrant at Jones’ home. Authorities seized computer equipment during the raid.

The complaint alleged that Jones was suspected of accessing a Department of Health messaging service without permission.

In a subsequent statement, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the agency’s “investigation began last month following a complaint by Florida Department of Health that a person illegally hacked into their emergency alert system.”

“As part of our investigation, FDLE agents served a search warrant this morning at the Centerville Court residence where Ms. Jones lives after determining the home was the location that the unauthorized message was sent from,” Swearingen said. “Agents knocked and called Ms. Jones both announcing the search warrant and encouraging her to cooperate.  Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung-up on agents.”

“After several attempts, Ms. Jones allowed agents inside. Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analyzed. At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home. Any evidence will be referred to the State Attorney for prosecution as appropriate,” the statement added.

Representatives for the Florida Dept. of Health and Gov. DeSantis declined further comment.

Jones, a data scientist, was fired from her role at the department of health in May. She has claimed that her dismissal was a result of her refusal to alter data related to COVID-19 cases in the state.

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DeSantis denied that Jones was a “chief architect” of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard. The governor’s office said Jones was fired for insubordination.

“Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors,” a representative for DeSantis told the Miami Herald at the time of her firing.

Since her firing, Jones utilized a crowdfunding campaign to launch her own version of a Florida COVID-19 case tracker.

This story has been updated.

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