- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama professor practiced at a shooting range not long before police say she gunned down three colleagues and wounded three others during a faculty meeting, her husband said.

Amy Bishop’s husband, James Anderson, said his wife acted normally while they were at the range and none of her behavior in recent days foreshadowed Friday’s rampage. Bishop, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, is accused of shooting six people at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Two survivors remained in critical condition Monday.

“She was just a normal professor,” he told The Associated Press during an interview at his home Monday.

Anderson said his wife didn’t reveal why she took an interest in guns. He knew she had a gun, but didn’t know when or where she got the weapon.

“I really don’t know how she got it, or where she got it from,” he said.

Police have said Bishop had no permit for the gun they believe she used in the campus shooting, and investigators said they didn’t know where she got it. It’s unclear if it was the same gun that her husband knew about.

Before the shootings Friday, the meeting was tranquil enough that ecology professor Robert O. Lawton was working on a manuscript about trees instead of paying full attention to the discussion. He said Bishop’s behavior didn’t stand out.

“It was an ordinary faculty meeting. Then it became unordinary,” Lawton said Monday, declining to elaborate on what he saw.

Investigators haven’t commented on a possible motive, but Bishop was vocal among colleagues about her displeasure over being denied tenure by the university, forcing her to look for work elsewhere after this semester.

Some victims’ relatives have also questioned how Bishop was hired at the university in 2003 after she was involved years ago in separate criminal probes. University of Alabama officials were meeting privately to review the files concerning her hiring.

In 1986, Bishop shot and killed her 18-year-old brother with a shotgun at their Braintree, Mass., home. She told police at the time that she had been trying to learn how to use the gun, which her father had bought for protection, when it accidentally discharged.

Authorities released her and said the episode was a tragic accident. She was never charged, though current Braintree police Chief Paul Frazier questions how the investigation was handled. Frazier said she also fired once into a wall before hitting her brother, then fired a third time into the ceiling.

Her husband said Monday he had known about her brother being shot, but said “it was an accident. That’s all I knew about it.”

In another incident, The Boston Globe reported that Bishop and her husband were questioned by investigators looking into a pipe bomb sent to one of Bishop’s colleagues, Dr. Paul Rosenberg, at Children’s Hospital Boston in 1993. The bomb did not go off, and nobody was ever charged.

Anderson defended himself and his wife as innocent people questioned by investigators casting a wide net. He said the case “had a dozen people swept up in this and everybody was a subject, not a suspect.”

“There was never any indictment, arrest, nothing, and then everyone was cleared after five years,” he said.

Huntsville police spokesman Sgt. Mark Roberts said his department didn’t find out about either of the older cases until after the shooting on campus. He said police were checking to confirm details of the pipe bomb probe.

An expert on how employers screen prospective workers said that because Bishop wasn’t charged with a crime before, the fatal shooting and pipe bomb cases would not have shown up on most background investigations.

“I don’t see what the institution (UAH) could have done,” said University of Illinois law professor Matthew Finkin, who recently co-wrote a paper on the subject for the American Association of University Professors.

He said there are more extensive and expensive types of background checks that might have turned up those incidents.

“But we normally don’t do those for a reason and a respect for privacy. They are very invasive,” Finkin said.

Bishop is charged with one count of capital murder, which can lead to a death sentence in Alabama if convicted, and three counts of attempted murder.

Killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and professors Adriel Johnson and Davis. Two of the wounded — professor Joseph Leahy and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo — were in critical condition Monday. The third, Luis Cruz-Vera, had been released from the hospital.

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