By Calvin Palmer
Amy Bishop, the university professor accused of shooting three of her faculty colleagues at the University of Alabama, had killed before.
In 1986, she killed her 18-year-old brother, Seth Bishop, with a shotgun and a retired suburban Boston police chief now says he has serious questions about how that investigation was handled.
John Polio, 87, who was Braintree police chief, said today he has “myriad” concerns about a report on it. No ballistics tests were included and he also thought it odd that there was an 11-day gap between the death and interviews with family members, apparently because they were too distraught to talk sooner.
John Kivlan, the former assistant district attorney who reviewed the case, said that there was nothing then to indicate Seth Bishop’s death was anything but an accident. He said a joint investigation by state and local police as well as the medical examiner’s office all came to that conclusion.
Braintree police chief Paul Frazier also questions how the investigation was handled. Frazier said Amy Bishop fired once into a wall before hitting her brother and then fired a third time into the ceiling.
An auto mechanic who worked at a dealership near Bishop’s home in 1986 told The Boston Globe that Bishop ran in after shooting her brother, waved a gun and demanded a getaway car.
Tom Pettigrew, 45, recalled that Bishop said she had had a fight with her husband and he was going to come after her, so she needed to flee. Pettigrew said Braintree police briefly questioned him and several other employees, but authorities never contacted him again.
Kivlan, who is now retired and living in Sarasota, Florida, said he did not recall that element of the case.
In 1993, Bishop and her husband, James Anderson, were questioned by investigators looking into a pipe bomb sent to one of Bishop’s colleagues, Dr Paul Rosenberg, at Children’s Hospital Boston. The bomb did not go off, and nobody was ever charged.
University of Alabama president David Williams said today that a review of Bishop’s personnel file and her hiring file raised no red flags. He said a criminal background check after Friday’s deadly shooting turned up neither of the previous cases because charges were never filed.
On Friday, Bishop, 44, opened fire at a meeting attended by 12 of her colleagues. She shot six of them, three fatally, with a 9mm handgun.
Associate professor Joseph Ng, who survived the attack, said Bishop methodically shot her victims in the head until the gun apparently jammed and she was pushed out of the room.
Bishop, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, was arrested and charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and professors Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Two were wounded — Professor Joseph Leahy remains in critical condition and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo is in a serious condition. The third, Luis Cruz-Vera, was released from the hospital.
Ng said the gun seemed to jam and he and others rushed Bishop out of the room and then barricaded the door shut with a table.
The charge was led by Debra Moriarity, a professor of biochemistry, after Bishop aimed the gun at her and attempted to fire. When the gun didn’t shoot, Moriarity pushed her way to Bishop, urged her to stop, and then helped force her out the door.
“Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives,” he said. She was the one who initiated the rush. It took a lot of guts to just go up to her.”
Bishop had just months left as a teacher at the University of Alabama, in Huntsville, after being denied tenure, which would have meant a job for life, by the university. But authorities have refused to discuss a motive.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]