A Massachusetts woman faces multiple charges of assault and battery for unleashing a swarm of bees on law enforcement officials trying to serve an eviction.
Rorie Woods, 55, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Oct. 12 in Springfield District Court and was released without bail, according to Masslive.com. Authorities say Woods released hundreds of bees while sheriff’s deputies were serving an eviction notice. Woods now faces seven felonies and one misdemeanor, according to Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.
When Hampden County deputies arrived at the home to serve the court-ordered eviction on Oct. 12, they were met by protestors from a local organization supporting Black homeowners, and soon after, Woods showed up.
Woods, who doesn’t live in the Longmeadow home, arrived in a beekeeper’s suit with a trailer full of bee hives, “quickly jumped out,” and then started “shaking” the hives, deputies said.
“Never in all my years of leading the Hampden County Sheriff’s Civil Process Division have I seen something like this,” said Robert Hoffman, Chief Deputy of the Civil Process Office. “I hope that these out-of-county protesters will reconsider using such extreme measures in the future because they will be charged and prosecuted.”
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When Woods was handcuffed and told that several officers were allergic, she said “Oh, you’re allergic? Good,” according to the report. Several sheriff’s department employees, including three who are allergic to bees, were stung, the report said. Woods, who lives about 25 miles away from the Longmeadow home in Hadley, Mass., was handcuffed.
“I’m just thankful no one died,” Hoffman said.
Woods’ lawyer did not immediately respond to USA TODAY on Thursday.
“We had one staff member go to the hospital, and, luckily, he was all right,” Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi said.
Woods put deputies and people in the neighborhood at risk, Cocchi added, and could have faced more serious charges if anything worse had happened.
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Why were protestors at the house?
In August, The New England Area Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed an amicus brief with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in support of the Longmeadow homeowner, Alton King. NEAC said Black homeowners have been unfairly targeted in “an unprecedented time” of illegal foreclosures.
“The Alton King case is unfortunately just one of thousands of Massachusetts homeowners targeted by discriminatory and illegal lending practices; it has damaged disproportionately Blacks and other borrowers of color” said Juan Cofield, president of NEAC.
The NEAC and Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending – a coalition of local and state-wide organizations that provide legal services to “reverse the foreclosure crisis” – say King was wrongfully removed from his home and that he brought evidence of a bankruptcy stay to court one day after the eviction notice was served. The groups have been involved throughout King’s legal process.
In 2018, Masslive.com reported that MAAPL appealed a supreme court decision on behalf of Woods and 20 other people who had been facing eviction.
Officials said the $1.5 million, 22-room home is currently possessed by the Bank Of New York Mellon and has been tied up “in the legal process” for two years.
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.
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