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Coordinates: 34°43′38″N 86°38′23″W / 34.727175°N 86.639818°W / 34.727175; -86.639818

University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting

The scene following the shooting
Location Huntsville, Alabama,
United States
Date Friday, February 12, 2010
4:00 p.m. (CST)
Weapon(s) 9 mm handgun
Death(s) 3
Injured 3
Suspected perpetrator(s) Amy Bishop Anderson
Defender Debra Moriarity[1]

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in Huntsville, Alabama three professors were killed and three other people wounded in a shooting on February 12, 2010. During the course of a routine Biology Department meeting attended by approximately 12 individuals, a female professor stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a 9-millimeter handgun. Amy Bishop, the sole suspect and a biology professor, has been charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder; under Alabama state law, she could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Bishop had recently been denied tenure at the university and was beginning her last semester there per university policy. She previously drew the attention of law-enforcement officials in 1986 when she shot her brother to death in Braintree, Massachusetts in an incident officially ruled an accident. She, along with her husband, were questioned in a 1993 pipe-bomb incident directed towards her then lab supervisor.

Contents

Shooting

The day of the shooting, Bishop taught her anatomy and neurosciences class. According to a student in Bishop's class, she "seemed perfectly normal" during the lecture.[2]

She then attended a biology department faculty meeting in Room 369 on the third floor of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, which houses the UAH Biology and Mathematics departments.[3][4] According to witnesses 12 or 13 people attended the meeting, which was described as "an ordinary faculty meeting.[1][3] Then it became unordinary."[5] Bishop's behavior was also described as "normal" just prior to the shooting.[5]

She sat quietly at the meeting for 30 or 40 minutes, before pulling out a 9 mm handgun "just before" 4:00 p.m. CST, according to a faculty member.[3] Joseph Ng, an associate professor who witnessed the attack, said: "[She] got up suddenly, took out a gun and started shooting at each one of us. She started with the one closest to her, and went down the row shooting her targets in the head."[1] According to another survivor, Debra Moriarity, dean of the university's graduate program and a professor of biochemistry, "This wasn't random shooting around the room; this was execution style."[6] Those who were shot were on one side of the oval table used during the meeting, and the five individuals on the other side, including Ng, dropped to the floor.[1]

After she had fired several rounds, Moriarity said that Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but heard only a "click."[6] She described Bishop as initially appearing "angry", and then following the apparent weapon malfunction "perplexed."[6] Her gun "either jammed or ran out of ammunition."[7] Ng said Moriarity then attempted to stop Bishop,[7][1] approaching Bishop and asking her to stop, and then helped the other survivors push Bishop from the room and block the door.[1] Ng said: "Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush."[1]

The Shelby Center for Science and Technology at UAH

The suspected murder weapon, a 9 mm handgun, was found in a bathroom on the second floor of the building. Bishop did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, as required by state law. She was arrested a few minutes later outside the building.[7] Shortly after her arrest, Bishop was quoted as saying, "It didn't happen. There's no way." When asked about the deaths of her colleagues, Bishop replied, "There's no way. They're still alive."[8]

Bishop is the sole suspect in the case. Police have not charged Bishop's husband, James Anderson, but interviewed him after it was determined that Bishop called him to pick her up after the shooting. In addition, interviews with a neighbor revealed that he saw the couple leaving their home with duffel bags Friday afternoon, prior to the shooting.[9] Anderson revealed that his wife had borrowed the 9 mm handgun used in the shooting, and that he had escorted her to an indoor shooting range in the weeks prior to the incident.[10]

Shortly after Bishop was identified as a suspect in the shooting, people who had apparently worked with her in the biology department contacted the police concerned that she had "booby trapped the science building with some sort of 'herpes bomb'," which would have been intended to spread the virus.[11] She had previously worked with the herpes virus while completing her post-doctoral studies, and a novel she wrote described the spread of a virus similar to herpes throughout the world "causing pregnant women to miscarry."[11] The police had already searched the premises, finding only the handgun used in the shooting.[11]

Victims

Three faculty members were killed, and three others were injured.[7] Only a few students were present in the building at the time of the shooting, and none were harmed.[7] A memorial service was held at UAH on Friday, February 19, 2010, with 3,000 people in attendance.[12]

Victims
Name Position Condition
Gopi Podila chairman of biology department[7] deceased
Maria Ragland Davis biology professor[7] deceased
Adriel D. Johnson, Sr. biology professor[7] deceased
Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera biology professor released from hospital February 13, 2010[13]
Joseph G. Leahy biology professor critical (as of February 17, 2010 (2010 -02-17))[3]
Stephanie Monticciolo professor's assistant good (as of February 24, 2010 (2010 -02-24))[14]

Suspect

Booking photo of Amy Bishop released by the Huntsville Police Department

Dr. Amy Bishop (born April 24, 1965)[15] is the mother of four children, and married to James Anderson.[16][17] She grew up in Massachusetts, and completed her undergraduate degree at Northeastern University in Boston where her father, Samuel Bishop, was a Professor in the Art Department. She earned her PhD in genetics from Harvard University.[18] Bishop's 1993 thesis at Harvard was entitled "The role of methoxatin (PQQ) in the respiratory burst of phagocytes", and was 137 pages in length. Her research interests include induction of adaptive resistance to nitric oxide in the central nervous system, and utilization of motor neurons for the development of neural circuits grown on biological computer chips. She published various scientific articles as a lead or co-author.

She joined the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at UAH as an Assistant Professor in 2003.[19] She was recently teaching five courses at UAH.[20] Before that, she was an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.[19] Bishop and her husband competed in a technology competition and developed a "portable cell incubator," coming in third and winning $25,000.[citation needed] Prodigy Biosystems, where Anderson is employed, raised $1.25 million to develop the "automated cell incubator,"[11] however, some scientists consulted by the press declared it too expensive and as being unnecessary."[21]

According to a friend and fellow member of a writing group in Massachusetts, Bishop had penned three unpublished novels, one of which featured a female scientist working to defeat a potential pandemic virus, and struggling with suicidal thoughts at the threat of not earning tenure.[22] She is the second cousin of the novelist John Irving and was a member of the Hamilton Writer's Group while living in Ipswich, Massachusetts in the late 1990s and apparently saw writing as "her ticket out of academia."[23] She had a literary agent and members of the club said "would frequently cite her Harvard degree and family ties to Irving to boost her credential as a serious writer."[23] Another member described Bishop as smart but abrasive in her interactions with the other members and as feeling "entitled to praise."[23]

Multiple colleagues of Bishop had expressed concern over her behavior. She has been described as interrupting meetings with "bizarre tangents ... left field kind of stuff", being "strange", "crazy", "did things that weren't normal", and she was "out of touch with reality". One of these colleagues was a member of Bishop's tenure-review committee. After Bishop's tenure was denied and she learned that this colleague referred to her as "crazy", she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging gender discrimination, with the professor's remark to be used as possible evidence in that case. The professor did not retract his comments: "The professor was given the opportunity to back off the claim, or to say it was a flippant remark. But he didn't. 'I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that,' the professor said. 'This woman has a pattern of erratic behavior. She did things that weren't normal ... she was out of touch with reality.'"[24]

In 2009, several students say they complained to administrators about Bishop on at least three occasions, saying she was "ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways." A petition was signed by "dozens of students", which was then sent to the department head. The complaints, however, did not result in any classroom changes.[25]

Bishop was suspended without pay retroactively on the day of the attack, and later, in a one-paragraph letter dated Feb. 26, 2010, she was fired (effective February 12, 2010).[26]

Tenure denial and appeal

As explained by University president Williams, Bishop was denied tenure in March 2009 and expected not to have her teaching contract renewed after March 2010. She appealed the decision to the University's administration. Without reviewing the content of the tenure application itself, they determined that the process was carried out according to policy and denied the appeal. The faculty meeting that was under way when Bishop opened fire was a routine meeting, with no discussion of tenure matters.[27]

Anderson, Bishop's husband, said that the denial of her tenure had been "an issue" in recent months describing the tenure process as "a long, basically hard fight."[28] He said that it was his understanding that she "exceeded the qualifications for tenure," and that she was distressed at the likelihood of losing her position barring a successful appeal. She approached members of the University of Alabama System's Board of Trustees, and hired a lawyer who was "finding one problem after another with the process." One sticking point was a dispute over whether two of her papers had been published in time to count toward tenure.[29]

Previous incidents

Bishop had previous encounters with law enforcement officials due to "an outburst or violent act."[11] In each instance, she remained "unscathed" and did not come to the attention of the UAH or other employers.[11] She shot her brother to death in 1986 in what was initially ruled an accident therefore not being charged, in 1994 she and her husband were questioned regarding a letter-bomb incident involving a doctor at facility she had previously worked at and in 2002, she was charged with assault after striking a woman in the head during a dispute at a restaurant but never officially found guilty.[11]

Brother's shooting

Bishop fatally shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth Bishop, on December 6, 1986 at their home in Braintree, Massachusetts.[30][16] The incident, in which Bishop fired at least three shots[31] from a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun (one into her bedroom wall, then one into her brother's chest while they were in the kitchen with their mother, and one into the ceiling of a room in her house while fleeing the scene), later pointing the weapon at a moving vehicle on the adjacent road, trying to get into the vehicle,[32][33] was initially logged as an "accident" by Braintree police. In statements to Braintree police that day, both Amy Bishop and her mother, Judy Bishop, described the shooting as accidental.[31]

After a small inquiry into the incident by the State Police in 1986 (reported in 1987) repeated the Braintree police department's initial assessment that the shooting was accidental, district attorney Bill Delahunt, now a U.S. Congressman, decided not to file charges.[34] Detailed records of the shooting had disappeared mysteriously by 1988,[30] Braintree police chief Paul Frazier said on February 13, 2010; "The report's gone, removed from the files."[31][35] After speaking with officers involved with the case in 1986 Frazier called the "accident" description inaccurate,[7] and said that then-chief John Polio ordered Bishop released to her mother,[36] a Braintree town official,[30] instead of being charged for the shooting.[7][30] Frazier was not on duty during the incident, but recalled "how frustrated the members of the department were over the release".[36] The now-retired Polio denied that there had been a cover-up.[30] Frazier's 2010 account and the 1987 Massachusetts State Police report differ in several key details, including whether Bishop had been arguing with her brother or with her father before the shooting.[35] Braintree police may reopen the Bishop case.[37] On February 15, 2010, the Norfolk County District Attorney said it is not reopening the investigation and the case of Amy Bishop shooting her brother is closed.[38]

On February 16 it was announced that the files previously declared missing had been located by Braintree officials and turned over to Norfolk County prosecutors.[39] Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating concluded, based upon these files, that probable cause existed in 1986 to arrest and charge her for crimes committed after she fled the house. She had taken the shotgun to a nearby auto dealership shop and brandished it at two employees in an attempt to get a car.[39] She could have been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of ammunition.[39] The statute of limitations has expired on each of these charges, and the most serious charge considered in 1986 was manslaughter.[39] Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, has ordered the state police to review their efforts in the investigation saying, "It is critical that we provide as clear an understanding as possible about all aspects of this case and its investigation to ensure that where mistakes were made they are not repeated in the future."[40] An investigation has been opened in which the state will cooperate with the current Norfolk County District Attorney's office to assess the state and local police and then-DA's handling of the case.[40]

On February 25, District Attorney Keating sent a letter to District Court Judge Mark Coven, to start a judicial inquest into the 1986 shooting. Keating said that recently enlarged crime scene photos from Bishop's bedroom reveal a news article in which a similar crime was reported and that this article may relate to Bishop's intent. Keating did not identify the specific news article, but reporters from The Boston Globe wrote that an internet search revealed that "two weeks earlier, the parents of the actor who played Bobby Ewing on the popular television show Dallas, were killed by an assailant wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, who then held up a car dealership, stole a pickup truck, and fled."[41]The inquest has been scheduled for April 13-16, 2010.[42]

On March 1, former Massachusetts State Police Detective Brian Howe broke his silence about the case. Howe, who retired in 2009 and no longer lives in Massachusetts, was the lead investigator for the state police in the Bishop case. He said he looks forward to addressing the judicial inquest into the shooting, and stands by his 1987 report and his agreement with the (now deceased) Braintree lead investigator, Captain Theodore Buker, that the shooting was accidental. Howe said that he was assigned to the case nearly two hours after the shooting and then immediately called Braintree, whereupon he learned from Buker he would not be needed that day and that Bishop had already been released into her parents' custody. Howe stated that Braintree police never informed him that Bishop had allegedly accosted employees at a car dealership at gunpoint, demanding a car.[43]Howe stated that he repeatedly requested the December 6 incident reports from the Braintree police, but never received them.[44]

Pipe-bomb incident

The Hunnewell Building at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

According to investigators, Bishop and husband, James Anderson were suspects in a 1993 letter-bomb case.[16][45] Paul Rosenberg, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Children's Hospital Boston, received a package containing two pipe bombs that failed to explode.[16][45]

Rosenberg was Bishop's supervisor at a Children's Hospital neurobiology lab;[16] Bishop had allegedly been concerned about receiving a negative evaluation from Rosenberg, and reportedly "had been in a dispute" with Rosenberg.[16] Bishop resigned from her position at the hospital because Rosenberg felt she "could not meet the standards required for the work".[45][46] According to documents based upon witness interviews, Bishop was "reportedly upset" and "on the verge of a nervous breakdown" as result.[46]

Anderson reportedly told a witness that he wanted to "shoot," "stab" or "strangle" Rosenberg prior to the attempted bombing.[46] Anderson denied he had ever threatened Rosenberg saying, "I wouldn't know the guy if he walked into a bar. And allegedly this tip came into a tip line, and the validity of the witness was never ascertained."[46] Per investigators, the USPIS-ATF investigation "focused" on Bishop and Anderson, but closed without charges filed due to lack of evidence.[47][13][48][45] At one point during the investigation, the couple refused to cooperate with investigators, refusing to open their door to investigators, and refused searches of their home and polygraph tests.[46][45]

International House of Pancakes assault

In 2002, Bishop was charged with and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault plus disorderly conduct, and received probation, for punching a woman who had received the last booster seat at an International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Massachusetts. According to the police report, Bishop strode over to the other woman, demanded the seat, and launched into a profanity-laced rant. When the woman would not give the seat up, Bishop punched her in the head, all the while yelling "I am Dr. Amy Bishop." Bishop's victim was identified as Michelle Gjika, and she declined to comment saying, "It's not something I want to relive."[49][50] In addition to probation, prosecutors recommended that she attend anger management classes, although it is unclear whether the judge in the case ordered her to do so.[49] Her husband said she had never attended anger management classes.[51]

Charges

Bishop has been charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.[52] The tentative court hearing date is March 10, 2010.[53][13]

The police confiscated a large binder containing documents pertaining to her "tenure battle", her computer, and the family van.[13] She has secured an unnamed attorney, and is being held at the Madison County, Alabama jail without bail.[54] Her court appointed attorney was later identified as Roy W. Miller.[51] If convicted, Bishop will be eligible for either the death penalty or life in prison, according to Alabama law.[54]

On February 15, Bishop attended a closed-door hearing presided over by an Alabama judge, in which the charges were read to her.[52] Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard said that no court date had been set at Bishop's arraignment in jail on February 15. As of February 16, 2010 (2010 -02-16), she is on suicide watch, which is standard in similar cases.[55] Her husband said she called him prior to her arraignment and they spoke for approximately two minutes and said, "She seems to be doing OK."[28]

Miller visited her in jail and said she does not remember the shooting and was "very cogent" but seeming to recognize that "she has a loose grip on reality." Initially he said Bishop has severe mental health issues that appear to be paranoid schizophrenia,[51] but later retracted that statement saying "he had spoken out of turn."[56] He acknowledged Bishop's role in the attack saying, "This is not a whodunit. This lady has committed this offense or offenses in front of the world. It gets to be a question in my mind of her mental capacity at the time, or her mental state at the time that these acts were committed."[56] Miller also said he would be enlisting the help of one or more psychiatrists to examine his client who said this was not the first time she has had no recall something that had happened.[56] He said he did not know if Bishop was insane and that determining whether she was culpable for her actions would be left to a psychiatrist and that she was "very sorry for what she's done."[56]

References

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