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Florida police raid home of data scientist who challenged state on COVID-19 data

Florida state police on Monday raided the home of a former state health department data scientist who created her own coronavirus case tracker as an alternative to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

Driving the news: The raid comes several months after Rebekah Jones was fired over what she said was refusing to "manipulate data" for the state, per the Tallahassee Diplomat.

  • The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said its agents were investigating allegations that someone at her residence had illegally accessed the Department of Health's messaging system.

Of note: The Florida Health Department has called Jones' initial allegations of data manipulation "patently false."

  • A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told the Miami Herald in May that Jones was removed from her position for “a repeated course of insubordination," which included modifying the department's COVID-19 dashboard.

What she's saying: Jones tweeted Monday there will be no update today" on her COVID-19 dashboard.

  • "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," she added.
  • "They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids."
  • A video Jones tweeted shows several officers enter the home with their weapons drawn. “Come down the stairs, now,’' police shouted. “Police, come down now.”
  • As an agent points his gun up the stairs, Jones can be heard in the video saying, "he just pointed a gun at my children."
  • Jones tweeted that the agents took her phone and computer she uses to post the case numbers in Florida.
"This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power."
"If [Florida Gov. Ron] 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. I'll have a new computer tomorrow. And then I'm going to get back to work."

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..

— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020

FDLE said in a statement to local media organizations that it "began an investigation November 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."

  • "Agents believe someone at the residence on Centerville Court illegally accessed the system," the statement added, per the Tampa Bay Times.
  • The statement said FDLE agents “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. 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."
  • The Florida Department of Health directed Axios to the FDLE for comment. The FDLE did not immediately respond.

Go deeper: Ousted Florida health dept. data scientist creates coronavirus tracker

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