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‘They pointed weapons at my youngsters’: Police raid house of Florida state worker fired over Covid knowledge ‘manipulation’ scandal

A former Florida Well being Division staffer fired in Could over a dispute concerning the state’s Covid-19 knowledge has been raided by police, calling them “gestapo” whereas denying allegations that she broke into an official messaging system.

Rebekah Jones, who served as an information analyst for the Florida Division of Well being (DOH) till she was fired final spring, took to Twitter on Monday with a prolonged thread and a video of her encounter with state police earlier that morning, saying they’d seized her “{hardware} and tech.”

“They have been serving a warrant on my laptop after DOH filed a criticism. They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed weapons at my youngsters,” Jones mentioned, accusing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of orchestrating the raid.

They took proof of corruption on the state degree. They claimed it was a couple of safety breach. This was DeSantis. He despatched the gestapo.

The temporary video of the incident exhibits officers at Jones’ entrance door serving a warrant, demanding she “come exterior” whereas asking who else is within the house. One is seen drawing a gun after studying Jones’ husband continues to be inside, asking that he and the couple’s youngsters additionally come downstairs as Jones protests.

A spokesperson for the Florida Division of Legislation Enforcement (FDLE), Gretl Plessinger, instructed an area newspaper that an investigation into Jones was opened final month after the DOH filed a criticism “concerning unauthorized entry to a Division of Well being messaging system which is a part of an emergency alert system.”

In response to the DOH, an unidentified particular person illicitly gained entry to the alert system and despatched out a gaggle message stating “It’s time to talk up earlier than one other 17,000 persons are useless,” apparently referring to the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The message was despatched to some 1,750 recipients earlier than the software program vendor overseeing the system was capable of cease it from spreading additional.

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Whereas Jones has denied any connection to the breach, telling an area reporter “I don’t know the way to do this stuff,” a FDLE investigator mentioned the unauthorized message was despatched from an IP handle linked to Jones’ Comcast account. The previous worker, nonetheless, maintains that the police obtained her IP handle from the DOH with out additional investigation, and that at the very least 5 different DOH staffers have been fired across the time the message was despatched, suggesting others might have had a motive to entry the alert system.

In Could, Jones was sacked from her place as a DOH Geographic Data System knowledgeable, the place she reportedly helped to handle an internet Covid-19 dashboard, after publicly accusing state authorities of manipulating knowledge to current a extra optimistic image of Florida’s outbreak. Whereas she has not alleged any precise doctoring of an infection or loss of life numbers, Jones has criticized modifications to the best way the state reviews positivity charges for exams, for instance. (DeSantis disclosed that specific change in April, arguing it might higher mirror developments amid the well being disaster.)

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Jones was finally discharged for insubordination after a number of warnings from superiors over her public dialogue of the coronavirus dashboard, together with sharing “unauthorized charts” together with “political commentary,”in accordance to paperwork obtained by the Related Press.

Jones, nonetheless, claims she was silenced by the federal government solely for her “whistleblowing” and has continued to assail the DOH and DeSantis from her web site, even creating her personal various dashboard. Regardless of the allegations, Florida’s deputy well being secretary, Dr. Shamarial Roberson, has stood by the state’s Covid-19 reporting, insisting “our knowledge is correct, it’s factual, it’s true, it’s clear.”

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