Professor in AL Shooting Had Been Investigated In Past Criminal Probes

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The Alabama professor who is named in the shooting death of three colleagues during a faculty meeting had a questionable past, say investigators, although she had never been charged with a crime.

Amy Bishop, a neurobiology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, drew a gun during a faculty meeting and fired, hitting six people. Three of her colleagues died on the scene, and the others were hospitalized. Two of the survivors remain in critical condition.

In the wake of the violence, investigators are learning that Bishop was the subject of two previous criminal probes. In 1986, authorities say, Bishop shot and killed her 18-year-old brother during what was ruled an accident. At the time, she told police that she was attempting to learn how to use the gun when it accidentally went off. Questions about the investigation into that incident have since surfaced, because Bishop fired once into a wall before shooting her brother, and then into the ceiling.

Bishop and her husband, James Anderson, were also questioned in 1993, after a pipe bomb was sent to the office of one of Bishop’s colleagues. The bomb, addressed to Dr. Paul Rosenberg at Children’s Hospital in Boston, never went off, and no charges were filed. According to one mutual coworker, Bishop and Rosenberg had been embroiled in a public dispute shortly before the bomb was delivered.

University officials are holding meetings to determine whether there was anything in Bishop’s files that might have provided clues to her behavior, in part because of pressure from the victims’ families. However, some say that because Bishop was not charged with a crime in either of the previous investigations, nothing in her background check would have been a red flag to the committee that hired her in 2003.

Anderson did tell reporters that he and Bishop had recently gone together to a shooting range for target practice. He also said he did not know where she had acquired the gun which was used in Friday’s slayings; investigators had previously said that Bishop did not have a permit for that weapon.

No motive has been named in the fatal shooting, but some of Bishop’s colleagues have reported that she was unhappy about having been denied tenure by the university. Bishop, who was Harvard-educated, was an associate professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Bishop has been charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder. If she is convicted on the capital murder charge, she could face the death sentence under Alabama law.

 

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