The Florida Department of Law Enforcement raided the home of a former Florida Department of Health staffer as part of an investigation into an unauthorized login. Rebekah Jones, who was fired from DOH in May, claims her house was raided as revenge due to speaking out on the state’s COVID-19 response.
Jones was a data scientist for the Florida Department of Health. During her time there, she was responsible for keeping the state’s COVID-19 dashboard updated. Jones programmed and modeled the design after the Johns Hopkins University global coronavirus map. She was fired from the job in May. Jones has claimed her termination was retribution for not manipulating data, while the Department of Health maintains she was fired for modifying data without input from agency epidemiologists or her supervisors.
Since then, Jones as built her own, independent COVID-19 tracker and has become a critic of what she views as the state’s lax pandemic response. She has often clashed with local and state government officials.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it executed a raid of Jones’ home Monday as part of an investigation into an unauthorized login into the Department of Health’s messaging system which, according to the agency is "part of an emergency alert system, to be used for emergencies only."
According to the probable cause affidavit, on Nov. 10, an unidentified person gained access to the department’s “StateESF-8.Planning” group and sent a message stating, “it’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
The affidavit also says the users in the StateESF-8.Planning group all use the same username and passwords, but says, "once they are no longer associated...they are no longer allowed to access... the group."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement tracked the sender’s IP address which led them to Jones’ home. In a series of messages posted on twitter shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, Jones said FDLE agents “pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.” A video posted to her twitter account shows Jones opening the door and being confronted by agents. She puts her hands up and goes outside as they enter the home.
“They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country. They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach. This was DeSantis. He sent the gestapo,” Jones said in the thread.
In a response, the FDLE issued a statement.
"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.”
FDLE says its investigation is ongoing. Jones, who accuses Gov. Ron DeSantis of trying to silence her, says she plans to keep updating her website and will be back up-and-running.
“I'll have a new computer tomorrow. And then I'm going to get back to work,” she tweeted around 6 p.m.