Massachusetts woman accused of assaulting officers with swarm of angry bees

Oct 20 (Reuters) - A Massachusetts woman stands accused of using a swarm of bees as a dangerous weapon, according to a county sheriff, after she allegedly unleashed a hive of angry insects on deputies trying to serve an eviction notice last week.

The incident unfolded when Rorie Woods, a 55-year-old professional beekeeper, drove up to the home in Longmeadow while deputies were in the process of enforcing the eviction notice, the sheriff's department said in a statement on Wednesday.

The residence, outside Springfield in the south-central part of the state, belonged to a man who had been litigating against his removal for years, garnering support of anti-eviction activists, including Woods, a department spokesperson said in an email on Thursday.

When she arrived at about 9:15 a.m. local time, towing a stack of manufactured beehives with a SUV, Woods exited the vehicle and tried to open the lids to unleash the bees, the department said.

"A sheriff’s deputy tried to stop her, but as the agitated bees started getting out and circling the area, he pulled back," the office said.

She then smashed the lid of one hive and flipped it off the flatbed, agitating the bees, the sheriff said on Wednesday. They swarmed the area, stinging several officers and bystanders who were nearby. One deputy was taken to the hospital where he was treated.

Meanwhile Woods put on a professional beekeeper suit to protect herself, and she carried a tower of bees to the front door of the home, trying to stop the eviction. At that point, deputies arrested her.

"I support people’s right to protest peacefully but when you cross the line and put my staff and the public in danger, I promise you will be arrested," Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi said.

Attempts to reach a lawyer for Woods were unsuccessful.

Woods, who lives in Hadley, Massachusetts, about 25 miles (40 km) north of Longmeadow, faces four felony counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and three counts of assault by means of a dangerous weapon. She also faces a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

Local media reported that Woods pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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