Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement raided the home of a former Department of Health employee Monday credited with creating the state’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard. Agents were looking for evidence that she unlawfully gained access to a health department messaging platform, according to the warrant.
Rebekah Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May after she says she declined to “manipulate” state virus numbers. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office says Jones was fired for insubordination. Jones later started her own competing dashboard at floridacovidaction.com.
The data scientist posted a video Monday evening showing law enforcement with guns drawn enter her Tallahassee home, where she says her two children, 2 and 11 years old, were inside.
An FDLE spokesperson confirmed agents served a search warrant at Jones’ home Monday morning. The raid was prompted by a DOH complaint, according to FDLE.
“FDLE began an investigation Nov. 10, 2020, 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,” FDLE said in a statement. “Agents believe someone at the residence on Centerville Court illegally accessed the system.”
According to Jones, she told agents her children and husband were upstairs. FDLE confirmed her family was upstairs when agents made entry into the home.
“They pointed a gun in my face,” she wrote. “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
According to FDLE, agents knocked and called Jones first “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.”
Jones said agents took her computers and cellphone.
“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,” she tweeted. “They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach. This was DeSantis. He sent the Gestapo.”
According to the warrant, DOH claims someone accessed an internal web interface used for emergency management communications on Nov. 10.
An unidentified subject wrote, “It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Speak out before it’s too late.”
According to the warrant, about 1,750 messages were sent before the software vendor was able to stop it from being transmitted any further. The platform is used to send messages to DOH employees as well as other state and nonstate employees, according to the document.
Investigators said they determined the software was accessed from an IP address at Jones’ home and on her Comcast account.
Agents were given permission in the warrant to seize computer hardware, software and other documents in the Dec. 3 warrant.
Officials with the Florida Department of Health declined to comment for this story, directing News 6 to the FDLE.