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Police raid home of health official fired by Florida governor

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Top US data scientist Rebekah Jones

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday conducted a search at the home of Rebekah Jones, a former employee of the state Department of Health, as part of an investigation into whether she improperly accessed a government messaging system to call on workers to speak out about the coronavirus.

Jones was the man's former professor at Florida State University, and she was sacked after threatening to give a failing grade to his roommate for revenge.

Video of the intense interaction shows Jones opening her front door and being immediately ushered out as at least three officers are seen entering the grounds and calling on Jones' husband to meet them at the home's entrance. He said agents executed a search warrant at Ms Jones' home after investigators determined that the unauthorised message was sent from an IP address associated with her family internet account.

Early in the pandemic, Ms Jones wrote blog posts and contacted media as she sowed doubt about the credibility of the data that was being presented.

Miami Herald reporter Jeff Butera obtained the search warrant for Jones" residence, indicating that on October 10, an "unknown user gained access and sent this message to approx 1,750 people: "it's time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead". The message was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

The new investigation focused on what police described as someone hacking into a system used to transmit emergency communications to send a message November 10 to state officials coordinating the public health response to the pandemic. "He just pointed a gun at my children!"

"Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analysed", he said.

It is unclear whether authorities pointed weapons at anyone in Ms Jones' home.

Ms Jones has raised more than $65,500 (£49,000) in seven hours after setting up a fundraiser to help her with legal costs. "This was DeSantis. He sent the gestapo", Jones tweeted following the raid.

Florida authorities said the raid was part of a probe into a recent hack of the Florida Health Department's website, but Jones said she hasn't had access to the site in six months.

She also said the phone which had been seized contained information about former colleagues who had shared information with her.

"DeSantis needs to worry less about what I'm writing about, and more about the people who are sick and dying in his state", she told CNN.

Jones has said she lost her job after she refused requests to manipulate data to suggest Florida was ready to ease coronavirus restrictions.

Following her whistleblower decision and firing, Jones and a group of other independent data scientists launched their own dashboard, which has been updated continuously throughout the health crisis. Rebekah Jones: - "gun at my children!" The message continued, "You know this is wrong". You don't have to be a part of this. And I, better than anybody, know that people at DOH aren't going to.

Jones calls the raid on her home an act of retaliation for her persistent criticisms of how Florida has handled the pandemic.

A spokesperson for Desantis pushed back, telling CNN that "the governor's office had no involvement, no knowledge, no nothing, of this investigation".

She is also involved in another project, the Covid Monitor, which focuses on coronavirus in schools. "Be a hero. Speak out before it's too late". "Doing this to me will not stop me from reporting the data, ever".

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