All it took was the ring of a doorbell for Sarah Tuneberg’s 10-year-old son to burst into tears.
The tension in the Denver home had already felt palpable as Tuneberg was grappling with how to keep her family safe. And now, an Amazon package delivery had sent her child into a panic.
“Are they here?” the boy asked through tears. “Whoever posted your name on the internet?”
It was more than her name that was posted online, however. Tuneberg’s address, along with a note encouraging people to “let them know how you feel” was posted to Facebook by a Parker man Dec. 28. She had been doxxed.
As a special senior adviser for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s COVID-19 response, Tuneberg had been identified by the man as someone “putting thousands out of work,” and “killing businesses.”
"We’ll see how strong they are at their homes,” wrote Mark Hall, a 2020 Parker Town Council candidate and a co-chair of the Parker Republicans.
What followed for the mother of three were calls with the state’s homeland security department, increased police patrols by her home, tears, confusion and an internet binge on the rumors about her that were now spreading like wildfire.
‘I burst into tears'
Earlier in the day Dec. 28, before she became aware of the doxxing, Tuneberg had sent an email to her colleague letting him know she would be taking 24 hours off to rest and reflect. She was brought on board by Gov. Jared Polis in March to fight the pandemic and expand community testing for the virus. She’d been working an average of 12- to 14-hour days for months and felt like she was accomplishing some of the best work of her career.
Less than a minute after sending that email, her colleague called her with the news that her name and address had been posted online and that people were being encouraged to come protest at her home.
“I was just like ‘what?’” she said in an interview with Colorado Community Media. “It was so terrifying, I won't lie. I was so caught off guard and shaken ... I burst into tears."
Things moved quickly after that. She was immediately connected with the Colorado Information Analysis Center, a part of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. They guided her through a flurry of protective steps they recommend when things like this are done to people.
Close the blinds. Take everything off your porch. Lock your doors. Lock your windows.
All of these measures were being taken because of the actions of a complete stranger in another town.
“I’ve never met Mark Hall in my life. I’ve never heard of him,” Tuneberg said.
A Facebook group called “Revolt Against Shutdowns, Big Box Holidays,” was created Dec. 28. Hall posted in the group that he would, every day, be posting “the name and address of unelected, non-law enforcement officers who think they can flex muscles in businesses.”
"If they want a war, we can give them that," he wrote.
Hall said he wasn’t advocating for violence, but asked people to show up to the employees’ homes with air horns, honking and signs.
After he posted the addresses of Tuneberg and another CDPHE employee, Hall received comments of encouragement.
“Take the gloves off. This is a bare knuckle war,” one commenter wrote. “Forget the rule book. Jungle rules apply now.”
To this comment, Hall responded “I agree … it will probably come to that.”
Others, however, were furious. Guided to the post by a 9News story about the doxxing, some commenters criticized the post and Hall.
The next day, Hall took down the post and apologized, saying: “People and small businesses right now are very passionate and concerned about what's happening with continued shutdowns, and the actions I took were an attempt to express my frustration.”
But by then, Tuneberg’s address had been seen and shared countless times. As far as she knows, no one showed up to protest, but the fear that someone could tuck the information away to use later has already been planted in her mind.
“To be threatened in your home when it’s the only place you can go right now, it was really intense,” Tuneberg said.
Tuneberg, who has called the posting of her address "cowardly," said it’s ridiculous for Hall to say he wasn’t calling for violence while posting her address and using words like "war" and "revolution."
Hall declined requests to be interviewed for this story.
‘An internet hole’
The day of rest and relaxation that Tuneberg had planned for suddenly looked very different.
“I’m embarrassed to admit, I fell into an internet hole,” she said.
She went through the "explosion" of messages she was receiving on Twitter and Facebook. She read through comments from people saying she was part of a great conspiracy to depopulate the planet, enslave society and collect people’s DNA through COVID-19 testing. The world sort of fell away, she said.
She explained to her kids what was happening, and took it as an opportunity to talk about how words and actions have consequences, even when you can’t see them, she said.
“I didn’t run for office. I really am just trying to do my best work and it feels so strange to be identified as someone who is worthy of that level of vitriol,” she said.
She has tried to get in touch with Hall — who as of Jan. 18 hadn't responded or contacted her directly, she said — to let him know the impact of this event on her life, she said.
“I’d like to tell him who I am and what it was like to be on the other end of that and what it was like for my kids,” she said. “I’m just trying really hard in a global pandemic and you, without knowing me … decided I’m an enemy and deserving of incredible consequence in my life.”
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