Details emerge about Ala. rampage suspect

Police reports have officially been released, chronicling the suspect's history of violence


Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — When police finally tracked down Amy Bishop on the day she shot and killed her teenage brother in 1986, she was crouching behind a parked car, carrying a shotgun at waist level with one round in the chamber and a second in her pocket.

The details come from police reports released Tuesday, as law enforcement officials said there was probable cause to file weapons and assault charges against her at the time of the shooting at the family's home in Braintree, Mass.

Details of the 1986 death and its investigation have surfaced since Bishop, a biology professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, was arrested and charged in a university shooting rampage at a faculty meeting Friday that left three people dead and three injured. Relatives of victims in last week's shooting have questioned whether much of the violence could have been prevented if the earlier case had been handled properly.

Bishop's past encounters with the law have also included 2002 charges for a fight over a child's booster seat at an International House of Pancakes and her questioning in an attempted pipe bombing in 1993.

The newly released police reports from the 1986 shooting had been sought since the Alabama shooting. After reviewing them, Norfolk, Mass., District Attorney William Keating said Bishop could have been arrested on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition. Even so, Keating said, the police reports don't necessarily contradict Bishop's mother's claim that the shooting of 18-year-old Seth Bishop was an accident. Also, the statute of limitations has expired.

U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., who was the district attorney at the time, said Wednesday he has limited memory of the shooting. He spoke with The Associated Press in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he is traveling and said his former first assistant was in charge of the case and has responded to questions about it.

"I understand I haven't had a real opportunity to get into the details of the case but I suspect when I return I'll have an opportunity to become debriefed and I know there have been statements but I'm not really in a position to see any records," Delahunt said.

The reports say Bishop told officers she came downstairs from her bedroom at their home in suburban Braintree, Mass., to get help unloading a shotgun. As she walked into the kitchen, she said, her mother told her not to point the gun at anyone and she turned and the gun went off, striking her brother in the chest.

They also detail for the first time how she was detained. Bishop had fled with the gun, and two officers tracked her down outside a car dealership near her home. As one officer asked Bishop to put the gun down, a second officer, using a truck as cover, moved within about 5 feet of Bishop.

"I drew my service revolver and yelled three times drop the rifle," Officer Timothy Murphy wrote. "After the third time she did."

Police examined the shotgun and found it loaded with a 12-gauge round. A second round was discovered in her pocket.

Bishop, a 44-year-old, Harvard-educated neurobiologist, was under extra guard at an Alabama jail, charged with capital murder and attempted murder. She could face the death penalty, although the local prosecutor said he has not yet decided whether to pursue capital punishment.

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 remained in critical condition and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo was in serious condition Tuesday. The third, Luis Cruz-Vera, was released from the hospital.

The shootings erupted in the middle of a regular monthly faculty meeting. Assistant professor Joseph Ng, one of a dozen people at the meeting, said Bishop drew a gun and opened fire.

Bishop was targeting faculty members sitting closest to her, Ng said. As his injured colleagues went down, he and other survivors dived under the conference room table.

Then, within seconds, the shooting stopped, because her weapon had apparently jammed.

The lull gave the survivors an opportunity. Debra Moriarity, a biochemistry professor, scrambled toward Bishop and urged her to stop shooting, Ng said. Bishop aimed the gun directly at her and pulled the trigger, but it failed to shoot, he said.

Moriarity then led the charge that forced Bishop out the door.

"Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush," Ng said. "It took a lot of guts to just go up to her."

Moriarity said Bishop pointed the gun at her and tried to shoot several times. "I know I yelled at her, 'Amy, think about my grandson, think about my daughter,'" she told ABC's "Good Morning America" in an interview aired Wednesday.

"She looked like she was intent on doing this, and she was angry," Moriarity said.

After Bishop was pushed out of the room, the faculty members propped the conference room table against the door and called 911. Then they braced for her to return, but Bishop never came back - and Ng still isn't quite sure why.

"She could have killed everyone in the room," said Ng. "It could have been much worse."

Bishop and her husband, James Anderson, were also questioned in 1993 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.

Then in 2002, Bishop was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct after a tirade at the International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Mass. Peabody police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto said that Bishop became incensed when she found out another woman had received the restaurant's last booster seat. Bishop hit the woman while shouting, "I am Dr. Amy Bishop," according to the police report.

Bonaiuto said Bishop admitted to the assault in court, and the case was adjudicated - meaning the charges were eventually dismissed.

Some victims' relatives have questioned how Bishop was hired in 2003 after she was involved in previous criminal investigations, but University President David B. Williams and others defended the decision to hire her. He said a review of her personnel file and her hiring file raised no red flags.

Police ran a criminal background check Monday, he said, after she was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.

"Even now, nothing came up," Williams said.

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