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State Raids Home Of Former Dept. Of Health Scientist Rebekah Jones

Woman sits in front of computer
Syracuse University
Law enforcement raided the Tallahassee home of former Dept. of Health scientist Rebekah Jones Monday during an investigation into hacking of a state website.

Rebekah Jones posted a video on Twitter showing officers entering her Tallahassee house Monday morning and then drawing their guns as they called for her husband and their two children.

A scientist who claims she was fired by the state of Florida earlier this year for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data had her house raided Monday — and she's blaming Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Rebekah Jones posted a video on Twitter Monday afternoon showing Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers entering her Tallahassee house earlier that morning, removing her, and then drawing their guns as they called for her husband and their two children.

Jones then yelled, “He just pointed a gun at my children,” referring to one of the agents.

She also later said in another tweet, “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.”

However, neither claim was apparent in the video Jones posted, and a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said, "At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home."

In a series of Tweets, Jones said, "This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power."

According to the FDLE, the health department said that someone improperly accessed a state emergency alert messaging system on Nov. 10.

That person sent a message to members of the emergency response team 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.”

An FDLE affidavit said the IP address associated with the message led them to Jones’ home, which prompted the raid.

The FDLE said agents knocked and called Jones, encouraging her to cooperate, but she refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung up on the agents.

Once they were allowed inside, officials took her phone and computer. No charges have been filed at this time.

"Any evidence will be referred to the State Attorney for prosecution as appropriate," FDLE officials said.

Since being dismissed from her job in May, Jones has been critical of DeSantis and other state officials on social media with how they've handled the pandemic.

She was one of the Florida Department of Health scientists who built and ran the state's coronavirus data portal, but DeSantis has downplayed Jones’ role, saying she isn’t an epidemiologist.

Jones told NPR in June she was fired because she refused when Department of Health officials asked her to change COVID-19 numbers before the state began reopening.

"The night before the first phase of reopening, I was asked to actually delete and then hide data from the public. I said I wanted in writing that directive from my boss telling me to do that before I would do it," Jones said on Morning Edition June 29.

"I think that as soon as I said no to one of the many things that they were doing that weren't ethical, they realized that the data wasn't so much the problem as the data keeper. And by moving me out of the way, they could do whatever they wanted."

State officials have repeatedly insisted Jones was fired for insubordination.

The DeSantis administration also brought to the media’s attention criminal charges that had been filed against Jones last year.

A review of Leon County court documents shows that Jones was charged in July 2019 with two counts of cyberstalking and one count of sexual cyber harassment. According to court records, one of the cases Jones is still open.

Jones filed a whistleblower complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations in July.

Jones remains defiant, saying she'll get a new computer and continue updating her own website tracking Florida’s coronavirus data.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.