13-Year-Old Son of Florida's COVID Whistleblower Arrested

She says it's retaliation; police say he threatened to shoot up a school
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2023 12:30 AM CDT
13-Year-Old Son of Florida's COVID Data Whistleblower Arrested
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a Midland County Republican Party breakfast in Midland, Mich., on Thursday, April 6, 2023.   (Kaytie Boomer/The Bay City Times via AP)

The 13-year-old son of Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist fired and allegedly harassed after she alleged the state was manipulating its COVID data and posted what she said were the state's "real" COVID numbers, has been arrested. Jones tweeted Wednesday, "My family is not safe. My son has been taken on the gov's orders, and I've had to send my husband and daughter out of state for their safety. THIS is the reality of living in DeSantis' Florida. There is no freedom here. Only retaliatory rule by a fascist who wishes to be king." In the ensuing Twitter thread, she implied that the whistleblower lawsuit she filed against Florida last month may have something to do with her child's arrest. She said it was a week after that complaint was filed that someone claiming to be a cousin of one of her son's classmates joined the kids' Snapchat group.

It was that person, she says, who reported her son to police for sharing a meme during a group discussion in which kids were joking about police officers and video games. (The meme, which reads, "Cops in their car waiting for the school shooter to kill himself so they can go in," is here.) She said the local police and her son's school both completed a threat assessment and determined the incident was not a threat, but that two weeks later police informed her an arrest warrant had been issued for her son for "digital threats of terrorism" and that when she asked on whose orders, "The officer said it was the state." On Thursday, she tweeted that her son was back home with her. His arraignment has been scheduled for May 3. A Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office spokesperson says it was Jones who turned her son in to the sheriff's office, Yahoo News reports.

An incident report alleges Jones' son made threats to shoot up his former middle school and that those threats were reported to police by other students, but the Miami Herald reports that an unredacted version of the police report shows the threatening messages were sent by a username that does not match the username Jones' son used to send the memes he was questioned about. It's not clear how authorities determined the two usernames are linked. Jones says her son has never used the username linked to the threatening messages. (More Rebekah Jones stories.)

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