‘They pointed guns at my kids’: Scientist says police seized computer, self-published COVID-19 data

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State police raided the home Monday morning of a former Florida Department of Health data scientist who has been publishing her own COVID-19 statistics after she claims she was wrongfully terminated for refusing to manipulate virus data on the statewide dashboard.

“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,” Rebekah Jones tweeted at 5 p.m.

“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,” Jones added.

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According to the Miami Herald, Jones was terminated in May as the geographic information system manager for the health department’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection after she complained in an email to users of a statewide data portal that the state was manipulating the public health data being shared to the site.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a statement late Monday, however, confirming that a search warrant was issued for Jones’ Tallahassee home and that the department launched its investigation “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.”

Specifically, investigators suspect Jones is responsible for sending an unauthorized message to members of Florida’s Emergency Response Team, charged with coordinating the public health and medical response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Herald reported.

The Nov. 10 message, obtained by the Sun-Sentinel, pleaded with recipients 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.”

In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Jones denied hacking the system.

“I have never had access to that system,” she told the newspaper. “I am not a hacker. I do data statistics and analysis.”

Click here to read Jones’ full Twitter thread on the raid.

Read more here and here.

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