Alabama Professor had Violent History Prior to Shooting

Liz De La Torre

“I am Dr. Amy Bishop,” the Harvard-educated neurobiologist would declare in justification to those who challenged her. Now, that name is synonymous with the shooter who unleashed volatile rampage Feb. 12 at the University of Alabama’s Huntville campus. In a tumultuous uproar, professor Amy Bishop opened fire on 6 colleagues, 3 of which were killed, during a faculty meeting. Colleagues have said that the blow-up came after she was denied tenure. “Obviously she was very distraught and concerned over that tenure,” her defense lawyer, Roy Miller, said. “It insulted her and slapped her in the face, and it’s probably tied in with the Harvard mentality. She brooded and brooded and brooded over it, and then, ‘bingo.’” In fact, people knew Bishop as being very zealous over her accomplished PhD in genetics and distinguished alma mater. One of her students, Caitlin Phillips, reiterated, “She loves Harvard. Everything went back to Harvard. It was, ‘When I was at Harvard, I got to do this thing. When I was at Harvard, I got to do that.’ She said, ‘This is a test I would give at Harvard. I’m not saying I’m stupid, but there’s a reason I’m not at Harvard.’” To some, her bragging of her illustrious educational career seemed like she thought she was superior to everyone else and, therefore, untouchable.

This police booking photograph released by the Huntsville (Ala.) Police Dept., on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, shows college professor Amy Bishop, charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. (AP Photo/Huntsville Police Dept.)

Though not exactly invincible, Amy Bishop’s history of violence shows that she has still been cleared of many prior incidents. In 1986, she was trying to learn to shoot a gun her father had bought for protection when an “accidental discharge of the firearm” shot and killed her brother. Questions of the handling of the case have emerged in which no charges were brought against Bishop; she and her family were questioned 11 days after the shooting, and the police reports had been missing until recently. In another instance, Bishop was sought out when a double-pipe bomb was mailed to the home of one of her colleagues, Paul Rosenberg, in 1993. The bomb never went off, and, again, no one was charged. In an IHOP restaurant in 2002, Bishop yelled obscenities and clobbered a woman on the head for taking the last booster seat and refusing to give it to her. While she was initially charged with assault, battery, and disorderly conduct, the charges were dismissed six months later because she had “stayed out of trouble.” Although she was told to seek anger management after the 2002 incident, she never did.

Currently, Bishop is held without bond and charged with capital murder and 2 counts of attempted murder, qualifying for the death penalty. Her husband had, apparently, gone to a shooting range with his wife but didn’t know how she had obtained the gun or why she was so interested in target practice. He said she had not shown any signs of bizarre behavior in the days leading up to the shooting and denies his wife having any mental illness. Called a paranoid schizophrenic who “gets at issue with people that she doesn’t need to and obsesses on it” by Miller, Amy Bishop claims no recollection of the shooting but has said that she is “very sorry for what she’s done.” As for gearing up to use the insanity defense, “This is not a whodunit,” Miller continued. “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.”