USA: Shooting reveals history of violence

17 February 2010

When a young woman in Massachusetts killed her brother with a shotgun in 1986, no ballistics tests were done, and police waited more than a week to question family members. The death was ruled an accident. Now, a quarter-century later, Amy Bishop is accused in another shooting -- an attack that killed three fellow biology professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

In the days since Friday's shooting, revelations about Bishop's past have raised questions about whether much of the violence could have been prevented. In the latest twist Tuesday, a police report revealed Bishop had also been charged with assaulting a woman in 2002 during a tirade over a child's booster seat at a restaurant.

The story started more than two decades ago, when police were called to the Braintree, Mass., home Bishop shared with her parents. Authorities found her 18-year-old brother, Seth, dead of a shotgun wound to the chest.

Bishop's father told police that he and his daughter had a disagreement, and she went to her room. She said she had wanted to learn to load a shotgun her parents had bought after a recent break-in.

Bishop said she accidentally fired the gun in her bedroom as she tried to unload it, then went to ask her brother to help, according to a police report.

She said the gun went off again as her brother, a Northeastern University freshman and a virtuoso violinist, walked across the kitchen. She told police she did not realize that she had shot her brother.

She said that she ran away and thought she had dropped the gun, and did not remember anything else until she was taken to a police station.

Police and witnesses say she fled with the gun to a car dealership, where she pointed it at employees and demanded a getaway car.

She was caught but never charged. Police said it took 11 days before they could interview her family because they were so distraught. Authorities declared the whole thing an accident.

In 1993, Bishop and her husband were questioned when two mail bombs were sent to a Harvard professor she worked with at Children's Hospital Boston. The explosives did not go off. The couple said they were among a number of innocent people questioned by police who cast a wide net.

When Bishop was denied tenure by Alabama University, she was vocal about her displeasure and filed a complaint last year alleging gender discrimination. The university denied the allegations, which are in a complaint pending before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint, filed Sept. 15, was not immediately available.

On Friday, police said, Bishop, 44, walked into a faculty conference room and opened fire on her colleagues, killing three and wounding three. On Tuesday, Bishop was under extra guard at an Alabama jail.

University President David B. Williams said a review of her personnel file and her hiring file raised no red flags. She has no criminal record because she was never convicted of a crime.


Associated Press