Teen Son of Florida COVID Whistleblower Arrested on Accusation of 'Terrorist Threats'

Rebekah Jones' 13-year-old son was arrested on April 5, 2023, on suspicion of making online "terrorist threats" against his former middle school.

Published April 7, 2023

 (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Matt Cardy/Getty Images

On April 5, 2023, the 13-year-old son of a Florida whistleblower who had challenged Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on COVID-19 data in 2020 was put under "home detention" for allegedly threatening to shoot people at his former middle school.

He had been arrested the day before. Until his release to home detention after a court appearance, according to a Miami Herald story on April 6, he was being held at the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center, a 50-bed state-run lockup in Pensacola. The newspaper said Rebekah Jones, the former data curator at the Florida Health Department, and her son live in Santa Rosa County, just east of Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle.

Referring to the incident report, the Herald said the 13-year-old was arrested on suspicion of "written [or] electronic threats" of a "mass shooting [or] terrorist act." 

On April 6, Jones implied in a tweet that police deliberately hid information related to her teen son's arrest.

"JFC. I just found out via @MiamiHerald that police released a redacted version of their report that specifically hid that the messages sent came from an account that was NOT my son's," tweeted Jones. "I guess they had to have a plan for the blowback for arresting a 13 year old for memes." 

(Image via Rebekah Jones' Twitter)

"An unredacted version of the warrant, obtained by the Herald, shows the threatening messages were sent by a username that was different than the one Jones' son used to send the memes," the news story said. "The document does not say how authorities determined both usernames are linked to the same account. The redacted version circulated by authorities does not reveal that there were two different usernames involved."

According to the Herald, the teenager reportedly made threats on Snapchat and Discord, an app for instant messaging, around Feb. 1. Law enforcement officials claimed that other teens brought officials' attention to the posts in March 2023. Those teens, according to the officials, showed screenshots of memes that Jones' son shared on Snapchat, threatening to shoot up his former middle school. 

Snopes was not able to independently verify the claims made by the officials. However, Snopes did reach out to Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office that, according to Pensacola News Journal, released the incident report claiming the 13-year-old made repeated threats to shoot up Holley Navarre Middle School and stab students who angered him. The sheriff's office neither confirmed nor denied that it withheld an un-redacted version of the warrant for Johnson's son.

Meanwhile, Jones on Twitter accused DeSantis, without evidence, of ordering her son's arrest. "My family is not safe," she tweeted on April 5, the day of the arrest.  "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."

In 2020, Jones was fired from her job for "insubordination" after she accused DeSantis of misrepresenting COVID-19 statistics. In 2022, Jones, a Democrat, lost her bid for the seat of Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. 


COVID-19 Data Misrepresented by Florida Governor | Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Accessed 7 Apr. 2023.

"Public Remarks Prompted Florida Virus Data Curator's Firing." AP NEWS, Accessed 7 Apr. 2023.

"Rebekah Jones' Son Arrested in Florida after Allegedly Threatening to Shoot up School, Stab Students." Pensacola News Journal, Accessed 7 Apr. 2023.

"Rebekah Jones' 13-Year-Old Son Arrested Over Alleged Threats." Miami Herald. Accessed 7 Apr. 2023.

Damakant Jayshi is a former writer for Snopes.

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