It’s a tale as old as time: Woman becomes data curator for the Florida government during a global pandemic, Florida government fires woman for accurately reporting the data it’s trying to suppress, woman continues to tweet accurate but forbidden statistics about deadly virus to a massive online following, Florida law enforcement officers storm the woman’s home and point a gun in the direction of her kids.
Such was the classic predicament fired Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones found herself in on Monday, when officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement did indeed show up to raid her home during the execution of a warrant related to an investigation into the illegal use of the state’s emergency alert health system.
Since the raid, a legal defence fund set up for Jones on GoFundMe had raised $US167,970 ($226,592) as of Tuesday night — far exceeding its original $US150,000 ($202,350) goal.
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
Home security camera footage of the raid, which went viral on Monday after Jones published it online, shows multiple armed officers entering Jones’ residence while she can be heard telling them that her husband and children are upstairs. Shortly after she tells the officers this, one appears to point his gun in the direction of the second floor landing.
Jones — who has been vocal online about what she says is a blatant attempt by the Florida government to fudge the numbers on covid-19 statistics so that the state’s businesses can remain open — tweeted shortly after the incident that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis had “sent the gestapo” in to silence her.
In a statement, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen confirmed that agents had entered Jones’ home, but denied that they had pointed their guns in the direction of any of her family members.
“Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analysed,” Swearingen said. “At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home. Any evidence will be referred to the State Attorney for prosecution as appropriate.”
During a televised appearance on Monday evening, Jones told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the true goal of the raid had been to seize all of her devices in order to ascertain her level of communication with other government employees.
“On my phone is every communication I’ve ever had with someone who works at the state who has come to me in confidence and told me things that could get them fired or in trouble like this,” Jones said. “I just want to say to all those people right now: If DeSantis doesn’t know already, he’ll know soon enough you’ve been talking to me.”