Law enforcement authorities in Tallahassee, Fla., on Monday raided the home of a data scientist who had been fired by Gov. Ron DeSantis after refusing to manipulate numbers.
In the months since her firing, Rebekah Jones has continued to publish coronavirus statistics independently, while also issuing warnings on Twitter and cable news. DeSantis, meanwhile, has continued to downplay the severity of the epidemic, which has killed nearly 20,000 Floridians.
Jones posted video of the raid, which was conducted by Florida state police Monday morning. She said the police “took all my hardware and tech,” for which they obtained a warrant following a Department of Health complaint.
“They pointed a gun in my face,” Jones said in her message, which was shared by thousands of people. “They pointed guns at my kids.”
There will be no update today.
At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech.
They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint.
They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.. pic.twitter.com/DE2QfOmtPU
— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020
In a second message, Jones described how the state police “took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country.”
Jones put the blame for the raid squarely on the governor. “This was DeSantis,” she wrote. “He sent the gestapo.” The Gestapo was the secret police of Nazi Germany. DeSantis’s office did not respond to a Yahoo News request for comment.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement that it executed the warrant 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.”
The statement further said that 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.”
The warrant appears to be related to a Nov. 10 message sent over the Health Department’s emergency alert system to 1,750 employees. “Speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,” said the message, the contents of which were first published by the Tampa Bay Times. “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.”
In a conversation with Yahoo News, Jones vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
In July, she published an op-ed in the Miami Herald urging other state employees to come forward. “You are not alone. You have power in numbers and in truth,” Jones wrote. “You are an army inside the Department of Health. And you have the greatest asset and weapon that any person could have: information.”
The police raid comes a day before DeSantis is set to participate in a White House panel on vaccine distribution with three other governors. DeSantis has consistently received some of the lowest approval ratings in the nation for his handling of the pandemic. A widely shared investigation published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel last week described how he “misled the public on the COVID-19 pandemic” by using “secrecy and spin.”