University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting

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Coordinates: 34°43′38″N 86°38′23″W / 34.727175°N 86.639818°W / 34.727175; -86.639818

University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting
Shelby Center at University of Alabama Huntsville shortly after the shooting incident, February 12 2010.jpg
The scene following the shooting
LocationHuntsville, Alabama,
United States
DateFebruary 12, 2010; 9 years ago (2010-02-12)
4:00 p.m. (CST)
WeaponsRuger P95 9mm handgun
PerpetratorAmy Bishop Anderson

Three people were killed and three others wounded in a shooting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in Huntsville, Alabama, on February 12, 2010. During the course of a routine meeting of the biology department attended by approximately 12 people, professor Amy Bishop stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a 9mm Ruger handgun.

A biology professor at the university, Bishop was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder. On September 11, 2012, Bishop pled guilty to the above charges after family members of victims petitioned the judge against use of the death penalty. The jury heard a condensed version of the evidence on September 24, 2012, as required by Alabama law. On September 24, 2012, Amy Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[1]

In March 2009, Bishop had been denied tenure at the university, making spring 2010 her last semester there, per university policy. Due to the attention Bishop attracted as a result of the shooting, previous violent incidents in which she had been involved or implicated were reevaluated. In 1986, she shot and killed her brother in Braintree, Massachusetts, in an incident officially ruled an accident. She was also questioned, along with her husband, after a 1993 pipe-bomb incident directed toward her lab supervisor.[2]


The Shelby Center for Science and Technology at UAHuntsville.

The day of the shooting, Bishop taught her anatomy and neurosciences class. A student in Bishop's class claimed she "seemed perfectly normal" during the lecture.[3]

She attended a biology department faculty meeting in Room 369 on the third floor of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, which houses the UAH Biology and Mathematics departments.[4][5] According to witnesses, 12 or 13 people attended the meeting, which was described as "an ordinary faculty meeting."[4][6] Bishop's behavior was also described as "normal" just prior to the shooting.[7]

She sat quietly at the meeting for 30 or 40 minutes, before pulling out a Ruger P95 9mm handgun "just before" 4:00 p.m. CST, according to a faculty member.[4] Joseph Ng, an associate professor who witnessed the attack, said: "[She] got up suddenly, took out a gun and started shooting at each one of us. She started with the one closest to her, and went down the row shooting her targets in the head."[6] According to another survivor, Debra Moriarity, dean of the university's graduate program and a professor of biochemistry, "This wasn't random shooting around the room; this was execution style."[8] Those who were shot were on one side of the oval table used during the meeting, and the five on the other side, including Ng, dropped to the floor.[6]

After Bishop had fired several rounds, Moriarity said that Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but heard only a "click",[8] as her gun "either jammed or ran out of ammunition."[9] She described Bishop as initially appearing "angry", and then following the apparent weapon malfunction, "perplexed".[8] Ng said Moriarity attempted to stop Bishop[6][9] by approaching her and asking her to stop, and helped the other survivors push Bishop from the room and block the door.[6] Ng said "Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush."[6]


The suspected murder weapon, a 9-mm Ruger P95 handgun, was found in a bathroom on the second floor of the building. Bishop did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. She was arrested a few minutes later outside the building.[9] Shortly after her arrest, Bishop was quoted as saying, "It didn't happen. There's no way." When asked about the deaths of her colleagues, Bishop replied, "There's no way. They're still alive."[10]

Police interviewed Bishop's husband, James Anderson, after it was determined that she had called him to pick her up after the shooting; they did not charge him with a crime. In addition, a neighbor revealed, in later interviews, that he saw the couple leaving their home with duffle bags on Friday afternoon, (revealed to be martial arts bags) prior to the shooting.[11] Anderson revealed that his wife had borrowed the gun used in the shooting, and that he had escorted her to an indoor shooting range in the weeks prior to the incident.[12]

Shortly after Bishop's arrest, people at the university's biology department expressed concern to police that she had "booby trapped the science building with a 'herpes bomb'" intended to spread the virus.[2] She had previously worked with the herpes virus while completing her post-doctoral studies. She wrote a novel describing the spread of a virus similar to herpes throughout the world "causing pregnant women to miscarry."[2] The police had already searched the premises, finding only the handgun used in the shooting.[2]


Three faculty members were killed, and three others were injured.[9] Only a few students were present in the building at the time of the shooting, though none was harmed.[9] A memorial service was held at UAH on Friday, February 19, 2010, with 3,000 people in attendance.[13]

Name Position Condition
Gopi Podila chairman of biology department[9] deceased
Maria Ragland Davis associate professor of biology[9][14] deceased
Adriel D. Johnson, Sr. associate professor of biology[9][15] deceased
Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera biology professor released from hospital February 13, 2010[16]
Joseph G. Leahy biology professor released from hospital April 14, 2010; died of heart attack October 15, 2017[17]
Stephanie Monticciolo staff assistant released from hospital March 29, 2010[18]


Amy Bishop Anderson (born April 24, 1965; age 44 at the time of the shooting)[19] is married to James Anderson and is the mother of four children.[20][21] She grew up in Massachusetts, attended Braintree High School,[22] and completed her undergraduate degree at Northeastern University in Boston. Her father Samuel Bishop was a professor there in the Art Department. She earned her Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University.[23]

Bishop's 1993 dissertation at Harvard was titled The role of methoxatin (PQQ) in the respiratory burst of phagocytes,[24] and was 137 pages in length. Her research interests include induction of adaptive resistance to nitric oxide in the central nervous system, and utilization of motor neurons for the development of neural circuits grown on biological computer chips. An anonymous source at Harvard stated that Bishop's work was of poor quality and undeserving of a doctorate degree, calling it "local scandal No. 1".[25]

University of Alabama in Huntsville[edit]

Bishop joined the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama in Huntsville as an assistant professor in 2003;[26] she was teaching five courses prior to the shooting.[27] Previously, she was an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.[26] Bishop and her husband competed in a technology competition and developed a "portable cell incubator", coming in third and winning $25,000.[28] Prodigy Biosystems, where Anderson is employed, raised $1.25 million to develop the automated cell incubator.[2] The university's president stated that the incubator would "change the way biological and medical research is conducted",[25] but some scientists consulted by the press declared it unnecessary and too expensive.[29]

According to a friend and fellow member of a writing group in Massachusetts, Bishop had written three unpublished novels. One featured a woman scientist working to defeat a potential pandemic virus, and struggling with suicidal thoughts at the threat of not earning tenure.[30] The novels reportedly "reveal a deep preoccupation with the concept of deliverance from sin".[25] Bishop is the second cousin of the novelist John Irving. She was a member of the Hamilton Writer's Group while living in Ipswich, Massachusetts in the late 1990s and was said to believe that writing would be "her ticket out of academia."[31] She had a literary agent although she had not published any books. Members of the club said she "would frequently cite her Harvard degree and family ties to Irving to boost her credential as a serious writer."[31] Another member described Bishop as smart but abrasive in her interactions with the other members and as feeling "entitled to praise."[31]

Several colleagues of Bishop had expressed concern over her behavior. She was described as interrupting meetings with "bizarre tangents ... left field kind of stuff," being "strange", and, notably, "crazy". One of these colleagues was a member of Bishop's tenure-review committee. After Bishop's tenure was denied and she learned that this colleague referred to her as "crazy," she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging sex discrimination. She cited the professor's remark to be used as possible evidence in that case. The professor did not retract his comments:

The professor was given the opportunity to back off the claim, or to say it was a flippant remark. But he didn't. 'I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that,' the professor said. 'This woman has a pattern of erratic behavior. She did things that weren't normal ... she was out of touch with reality.'[32]

Bishop was reportedly a poor instructor and unpopular among her students. She dismissed several graduate students from her lab, and others sought transfers out.[25] In 2009, several students said they complained to administrators about Bishop on at least three occasions, saying she was "ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways." A petition signed by "dozens of students" was sent to the department head. The complaints, however, did not result in any classroom changes.[33] Also in 2009, Bishop published an article in a vanity-press medical journal listing her husband and three minor children as co-authors.[34] The article was later removed from the journal website.[35]

Bishop was suspended without pay retroactively on the day of the attack. In a one-paragraph letter dated February 26, 2010, she was fired.[36][37] Bishop received a letter of termination from Jack Fix, Dean of the College of Sciences, which did not state a reason for her dismissal.[36] Her termination was effective February 12, the day of the shooting.[36][37]

Tenure denial and appeal[edit]

As explained by University president Williams, after Bishop was denied tenure in March 2009, she did not expect to have her teaching contract renewed after March 2010. She appealed the decision to the University's administration. Without reviewing the content of the tenure application, they determined that the process was carried out according to policy and denied the appeal. The routine faculty meeting at which Bishop opened fire was unrelated to her tenure.[38]

James Anderson, Bishop's husband, said that the denial of her tenure had been "an issue" in recent months and he described the tenure process as "a long, basically hard fight."[39] He said that it was his understanding that she "exceeded the qualifications for tenure," and that she was distressed at the likelihood of losing her position barring a successful appeal. Bishop approached members of the University of Alabama System's board of trustees, and hired a lawyer who was "finding one problem after another with the process." One point of dispute was whether two of her papers had been published in time to count toward tenure;[40] Bishop, who gave more emphasis to obtaining patents rather than publishing papers, reportedly received several warnings that she needed to publish more to receive tenure.[25]

Previous incidents[edit]

Bishop had previous encounters with law enforcement officials due to "an outburst or violent act" on her part.[2] In each instance, she remained "unscathed." The incidents did not come to the attention of the UAH administration or other employers.[2]

She shot her brother with a shotgun, killing him in 1986, in what was initially ruled an accident based on her mother's testimony; she was not charged with a crime. In 1994, she and her husband were questioned regarding a letter-bomb incident involving a doctor at a facility at which she had previously been employed. In 2002 she was charged with assault after striking a woman in the head during a dispute at a restaurant, but she was not convicted.[2]

Brother's shooting[edit]

At the age of 21, Bishop fatally shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth Bishop, on December 6, 1986, at their home in Braintree, Massachusetts.[20][41] Bishop fired two shots from a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun[25] (one into her bedroom wall, then one into her brother's chest while they were in the kitchen with their mother). Later she pointed the weapon at a moving vehicle on the adjacent road and tried to get into the vehicle.[42][43] The death of her brother was classified as an accident by Braintree police.

In statements to Braintree police that day, both Amy Bishop and her mother, Judy Bishop, described the shooting as accidental.[44] Police found that the shotgun had a live round in the chamber. This would have required Bishop to rack the slide of the weapon after shooting her brother to simultaneously eject the spent shell and reload the chamber.[25]

After a brief inquiry into the incident by the state police in 1986 (reported in 1987), they repeated the Braintree police department's initial assessment that the shooting was accidental. The district attorney Bill Delahunt, later elected as a U.S. Congressman, did not file charges.[45] Detailed records of the shooting had disappeared by 1988.[41] Braintree police chief Paul Frazier said on February 13, 2010, "The report's gone, removed from the files."[44][46]

After speaking with officers involved with the case in 1986, Frazier called the "accident" description inaccurate.[9] He and others said that then-chief John Polio had ordered Bishop released to her mother[47][25]—allegedly a political supporter of the chief[25] as a member of the Braintree town meeting.[8] They said that Amy Bishop had demanded to meet with Polio personally after the arrest[48][25]—instead of being charged for the shooting.[9][41] Frazier was not on duty during the incident but recalled "how frustrated the members of the department were over the release" of Amy Bishop.[47]

Other officers, he said, believed that Polio had "fix[ed] a murder", resulting in what Frazier described as "a miscarriage of justice. Just because it was a friend of his."[25] The now-retired Polio denied that there had been a cover-up.[41] Frazier's 2010 account and the 1987 Massachusetts State Police report differ in several key details, including whether Bishop had been arguing with her brother or with her father before the shooting.[46]

2010 investigation[edit]

On February 16, 2010, Braintree officials announced that the files previously declared missing had been located and turned over to Norfolk County prosecutors.[49] Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating concluded, based upon these files, that probable cause existed in 1986 to arrest and charge Amy Bishop for crimes committed after she fled the house. She had taken the shotgun to a nearby auto dealership shop and brandished it at two employees in an attempt to get a car.[49] She could have been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of ammunition.[49]

The statute of limitations has expired on each of these charges. The most serious charge considered in 1986 was manslaughter for the death of her brother.[49] Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, ordered the state police to review their efforts in the investigation, saying, "It is critical that we provide as clear an understanding as possible about all aspects of this case and its investigation to ensure that where mistakes were made they are not repeated in the future."[50] An investigation was opened in which the state cooperated with the Norfolk County District Attorney's office to assess the state and local police, and then-DA's handling of the case.[50]

On February 25, 2010, District Attorney Keating sent a letter to District Court Judge Mark Coven, to start a judicial inquest into the 1986 shooting. Keating said that recently enlarged crime scene photos from Bishop's bedroom reveal a news article in which a similar crime was reported. He speculated that this article may relate to Bishop's intent. Keating did not identify the specific news article, but The Boston Globe wrote that an internet search revealed that "two weeks earlier, the parents of Patrick Duffy, the actor who played Bobby Ewing on the popular television show Dallas, were killed by an assailant wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, who then held up a car dealership, stole a pickup truck, and fled."[51]

On March 1, 2010, former Massachusetts State Police Detective Brian Howe discussed the case. Howe, who retired in 2009 and no longer lives in Massachusetts, was the lead investigator for the state police in the Bishop case. He said he looks forward to addressing the judicial inquest into the shooting, and stands by his 1987 report. He had agreed with Captain Theodore Buker, the late Braintree lead investigator, that the shooting was accidental. Howe said that he was assigned to the case nearly two hours after the shooting and immediately called Braintree. Buker told him that he would not be needed that day and that Bishop had already been released into her parents' custody. Howe stated that Braintree police never informed him that Bishop had later allegedly accosted employees at a car dealership at gunpoint, demanding a car.[52] Howe said that he repeatedly requested the December 6 incident reports from the Braintree police, but never received them.[53]

On March 1, 2010, Norfolk District Attorney William Keating announced that an inquest would be held April 13–16, 2010.[54] Judge Mark Coven, first justice of Quincy District Court, was scheduled to hold the inquest.[54] During the inquest Braintree police officers testified that Judy Bishop had asked for Polio by name before the officers were ordered to release Amy Bishop. Judy Bishop, Polio, and his wife all testified that Judy Bishop and Polio had not been friends, and Judy Bishop denied that she had asked for Polio at the station.[25]

On June 16, 2010, Bishop was charged with first degree murder in her brother's death, nearly 24 years after his shooting.[55] Keating commented, "I can't give you any explanations, I can't give you excuses, because there are none. Jobs weren't done, responsibilities weren't met and justice wasn't served."[55] Bishop's parents, who claim that the Braintree officers lied about the events at the station, issued a statement after the indictment. They wrote, "We cannot explain or even understand what happened in Alabama. However, we know that what happened 23 years ago to our son, Seth, was an accident."[25]

The protagonist of the first of Bishop's unpublished novels is a woman who, as a child, attempted to frighten a friend after an argument but accidentally killed the friend's brother. Patrick Radden Keefe has speculated, after reviewing the evidence, that Bishop had meant to frighten or shoot her father with the shotgun after an argument and mistook her brother for him.[25]

Pipe-bomb incident[edit]

The Hunnewell Building at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

According to investigators, Bishop and her husband James Anderson were suspects in a 1993 letter-bomb case.[20][56] Paul Rosenberg, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Children's Hospital Boston, received a package containing two pipe bombs, which failed to explode.[20][56]

Rosenberg was Bishop's supervisor at a Children's Hospital neurobiology lab.[20] Bishop had allegedly been concerned about receiving a negative evaluation from Rosenberg, and reportedly "had been in a dispute" with Rosenberg.[20] Bishop resigned from her position at the hospital because Rosenberg felt she "could not meet the standards required for the work."[56][57] According to documents based upon witness interviews, Bishop was "reportedly upset" and "on the verge of a nervous breakdown" as a result.[57]

Anderson reportedly told a witness that he wanted to "shoot," "stab" or "strangle" Rosenberg prior to the attempted bombing.[57] Anderson denied he had ever threatened Rosenberg, saying, "I wouldn't know the guy if he walked into a bar. And allegedly this tip came into a tip line, and the validity of the witness was never ascertained."[57] Per investigators, the USPIS-ATF investigation "focused" on Bishop and Anderson, but closed without charges filed due to lack of evidence.[16][56][58][59] At one point during the investigation, the couple refused to cooperate with investigators. They refused to open their door, to allow searches of their home, or to take polygraph tests.[56][57]

The chief federal prosecutor in Boston, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, reviewed the case following the shooting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She ultimately decided Bishop would not be charged in the bombing attempt. She determined that the initial investigation in 1993 was "appropriate and thorough"; the case remains unsolved.[60]

International House of Pancakes assault[edit]

In 2002, Bishop was charged with punching a woman who had received the last booster seat at an International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Massachusetts. According to the police report, Bishop strode over to the other woman, demanded the seat, and launched into a profanity-laced rant. When the woman would not give the seat up, Bishop punched her in the head, all the while yelling "I am Dr. Amy Bishop!" Bishop's victim was identified as Michelle Gjika. Bishop pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault plus disorderly conduct for the assault, and received probation. In the aftermath of the 2010 Alabama shooting, Gjika declined to comment on the restaurant incident; she said, "It's not something I want to relive."[61][62]

In addition to recommending probation, prosecutors recommended that Bishop attend anger management classes. It is unclear whether the judge in the case ordered her to do so.[61] Her husband said she had never attended anger management classes.[63]


Bishop's current residence, the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women

Following the Alabama shooting, Bishop was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.[64] The police confiscated her computer, the family van, and a large binder containing documents pertaining to her "tenure battle."[16] She secured an unnamed attorney, and was held at the Madison County, Alabama jail without bail. Her court-appointed attorney was Roy W. Miller.[63] Prosecutors said almost from the outset that they would seek the death penalty.[65] According to Alabama law regarding sentencing for capital murder, Bishop was eligible for either the death penalty or life in prison.[66]

On February 15, during a closed-door hearing presided over by an Alabama judge, the charges were read to Bishop.[64] Following the hearing, Bishop was on suicide watch, a standard procedure in such cases.[67] Her husband said she called him prior to her arraignment and they spoke for approximately two minutes. He said, "She seems to be doing OK."[39] On March 12, while executing a search warrant on Bishop's residence, the police discovered a "suspicious device" prompting an evacuation of the nearby neighborhood; it was later identified by the bomb squad as non-explosive.[68]

Her attorney, Miller, visited her in jail and said she did not remember the shooting and was "very cogent," but seemed to recognize that "she has a loose grip on reality." Initially he said Bishop has severe mental health issues that appear to be paranoid schizophrenia,[63] but later retracted that statement, saying "he had spoken out of turn."[69] As of February 2013, Bishop told reporter Patrick Radden Keefe that she was being treated for paranoid schizophrenia with haloperidol.[70] Miller told a reporter for The New York Times that, "This is not a whodunit. 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."[69]

Miller said he would be enlisting the help of one or more psychiatrists to examine his client, who said this was not the first time she had no recollection of something that had happened.[69] He said he did not know if Bishop was insane; determining whether she was culpable for her actions would be left to a psychiatrist. He did say that she was "very sorry for what she's done."[69]

On June 18, two days after Bishop was indicted for the murder of her brother in a re-opened case, she attempted suicide in the Huntsville jail.[71] She survived and was treated at a hospital and then returned to jail; her husband complained that authorities did not inform him of the incident.[71]

In November 2010, survivors Leahy and Monticciolo filed lawsuits against Anderson and Bishop to recover damages. In January 2011, attorneys representing Davis' and Johnson's families filed wrongful death lawsuits against Bishop, Anderson, and the University.[72][73] In September 2011, Bishop pleaded not guilty by means of the insanity defense.[74]

In 2012, the spouse of one of the murdered researchers wrote a letter to the judge presiding over the case. In this letter, the writer indicated that the researcher's family had greatly suffered from its loss due to Bishop's actions, but that the family did not see a benefit from the loss of another life.[75] In response to this letter, Bishop's lawyers offered to change her plea to guilty in exchange for the prosecution not seeking the death penalty. On receiving this offer, chief prosecutor Robert Broussard contacted and learned from the nine survivors that none of them wanted the death sentence for Bishop. On the basis of these opinions, Broussard decided not to seek the death penalty. Bishop changed her plea to guilty.

Sentencing and appeal[edit]

On September 24, 2012, Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[75] Norfolk County declined to seek Bishop's extradition because, as Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, her Alabama sentence was sufficient punishment. Bishop stated through her Massachusetts lawyer that she wanted to be tried for her brother's death in order to vindicate herself.[25] Bishop is serving her sentence at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama.[76]

After pleading guilty in September 2012 and waiving her right to appeal, Bishop filed an appeal on February 11, 2013. The appeal stated that she was not informed of her rights she would be waiving by pleading guilty, she was not correctly informed of the minimum range of punishment, and the circuit court failed to explain that she could withdraw her plea. On April 26, 2013, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama rejected the appeal; they stated that Bishop failed to challenge the validity of her guilty pleas in the circuit court and did not file either a motion to withdraw her pleas or a motion for a new trial.[77]

Life in prison[edit]

In 2012, at the Madison County Jail, Bishop was hospitalized after she attacked inmate Amy Maclin. Maclin defended herself with a cafeteria tray, according to witness Takeliah Robinson. A day prior to the assault, Maclin tried to intervene in an altercation between Bishop and a guard.[78]


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