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Massachusetts Woman Attacks Officer

Sept. 14--BEVERLY -- A Beverly woman arrested early yesterday morning on arson and attempted-murder charges from a fire in Dorchester on Saturday attacked a Beverly police lieutenant who was booking her, police said.

Syretta Copeland, 31, of 69 Story Ave. was arraigned in Salem District Court on charges of assault and battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct and is now in custody at MCI-Framingham, awaiting arraignment on the Boston charges.

Beverly police went to Copeland's apartment just before 6 a.m. to arrest her on the Boston warrant, which also charges her with causing injury to a firefighter.

Copeland was initially cooperative, so much so that police allowed her to get dressed before they put her in handcuffs, according to a police report.

But at the Beverly police station, where she was being booked, she apparently became upset when Lt. Joseph Shairs asked her to remove her jewelry. When Shairs took off her handcuffs to allow her to take off some rings more easily, he held onto her arm, according to the police report.

Copeland began clawing at the officer's face, leaving deep, bloody scratches down each side, under his eye and near his mouth, according to the report.

Defense lawyer Steve O'Malley said Copeland told him she acted in self-defense.

Prosecutor Patrick Collins asked for bail on the charges and also sought the revocation of Copeland's bail in a driving-to-endanger case in Somerville, one of two driving-to-endanger cases she's currently facing. The other pending case is in Gloucester. Judge Robert Brennan granted both requests.

Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said Copeland is charged with setting an early-morning fire in a three-unit apartment house on Devon Street in Dorchester.

Arson investigators subsequently determined that the fire was started on a back porch and that the arsonist had also tried to burn the front of the house.

That fire, which spread to a second house, left nine people homeless and a Boston firefighter with serious back injuries. The firefighter was treated at a Boston hospital and released but remains off-duty, MacDonald said.

No motive for the arson was offered.

Copeland's Facebook page includes a post made on Saturday afternoon in which she described herself as hungover and complained that her wallet was missing.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or