- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A survivor of an Alabama university shooting said the professor charged in the attack that claimed three lives methodically shot the victims in the head until her gun apparently jammed and she was pushed out of the room.

Associate Professor Joseph Ng told the Associated Press on Tuesday he was one of 12 people at the biology department meeting Friday at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. He described the details in an e-mail to a colleague at the University of California-Irvine.

Mr. Ng said the meeting had been going on for about half an hour when Amy Bishop “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.”

Mrs. Bishop, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, was arrested and charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Professors Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Two were wounded: Professor Joseph Leahy remained in critical condition, and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo was in serious condition Tuesday. The third, Luis Cruz-Vera, was released from the hospital.

Mr. Ng said the meeting was held around an oval table. The six people on one side were all shot.

“The remaining 5, including myself, were on the other side of the table (and) immediately dropped to the floor,” he wrote.

Mr. Ng told the AP the shooting stopped almost as soon as it started. He said that the gun seemed to jam and he and others rushed Mrs. Bishop out of the room and then barricaded the door shut with a table.

Mr. Ng said the charge was led by Debra Moriarity, a professor of biochemistry, after Mrs. Bishop aimed the gun at her and attempted to fire but it didn’t shoot. He said Ms. Moriarity pushed her way to Mrs. Bishop, urged her to stop and then helped force her out the door.

“Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush,” he told the AP. “It took a lot of guts to just go up to her.”

Mr. Ng said the survivors worried she would shoot her way through the door, and they frantically worked up a backup plan in case she burst through — but she didn’t.

“There was a time when I didn’t think I’d come out of the room alive,” he said. “I don’t think any of us thought we’d come out alive.”

Investigators haven’t commented on a possible motive, but Mrs. 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 also have questioned how Mrs. 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, Mrs. 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 never was charged, though current Braintree police Chief Paul Frazier questions how the investigation was handled. Chief Frazier said she also fired once into a wall before hitting her brother, then fired a third time into the ceiling.

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

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

Mr. 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.

Mr. Anderson said his wife had practiced at a shooting range not long before the shooting. He said she acted normally while they were at the range and none of her behavior in recent days foreshadowed Friday’s rampage.

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

Mr. 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 Mrs. 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 whether it was the same gun that her husband knew about.

Associated Press writers Bob Johnson in Montgomery and Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this report.

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