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Ala. prof accused of killing 3 in tenure dispute
By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press Writer Kristin M. Hall, Associated Press
Writer – 1 min ago
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A University of Alabama biology professor accused of gunning
down three colleagues in an apparent tenure dispute was known as a bright woman
who some students said struggled to explain complicated topics.
Three others were wounded during the faculty meeting at the Huntsville campus on
Friday — a rare instance of a woman being accused in a mass shooting. Amy
Bishop, 42, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist who became an assistant professor
at the school in 2003, has been charged with capital murder. A "person of
interest" also was being interviewed.
She was taken Friday night in handcuffs to the county jail, and said as she got
into a police car: "It didn't happen. There's no way. ... They are still
Students' assessments of Bishop varied. Some recalled an attentive, friendly
teacher, while others said she was an odd woman who couldn't simplify difficult
subjects for students. Sammie Lee Davis, the husband of a tenured researcher who
was killed, said his wife had described Bishop as "not being able to deal with
reality" and "not as good as she thought she was."
Davis said his wife was a tenured researcher at the university. In a brief phone
interview, Davis said he was told his wife was at a meeting to discuss the
tenure status of another faculty member who got angry and started shooting.
Davis' wife, Maria Ragland Davis, was among those killed, along with Gopi K.
Podila, chairman of the biological sciences department, and Adriel Johnson.
Bishop had created a portable cell incubator, known as InQ, that was less
expensive than its larger counterparts. She and her husband had won $25,000 in
2007 to market the device.
Andrea Bennett, a sophomore majoring in nursing and an athlete at UAH, said a
coach told her team that Bishop had been denied tenure, which the coach said
may have led to the shooting.
Bennett described Bishop as being "very weird" and "a really big nerd."
"She's well-known on campus, but I wouldn't say she's a good teacher. I've heard
a lot of complaints," Bennett said. "She's a genius, but she really just can't
Amanda Tucker, a junior nursing major from Alabaster, Ala., had Bishop for
anatomy class about a year ago. Tucker said a group of students complained to a
dean about Bishop's classroom performance.
"When it came down to tests, and people asked her what was the best way to
study, she'd just tell you, 'Read the book.' When the test came, there were
just ridiculous questions. No one even knew what she was asking," Tucker said.
However, UAH student Andrew Cole was in Bishop's anatomy class Friday morning
and said she seemed perfectly normal.
"She's understanding, and was concerned about students," he said. "I would have
never thought it was her."
Nick Lawton, 25, described Bishop as funny and accommodating with students.
"She seemed like a nice enough professor," Lawton said.
The Huntsville campus has about 7,500 students in northern Alabama, not far from
the Tennessee line. The university is known for its scientific and engineering
programs and often works closely with NASA.
The space agency has a research center on the school's campus, where many
scientists and engineers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center perform Earth
and space science research and development.
The university will remain closed next week, and all athletic events were
canceled. The wounded were still recovering in hospitals early Saturday. Luis
Cruz-Vera was in fair condition; Joseph Leahy in critical condition; and
staffer Stephanie Monticello also was in critical condition.
It's the second shooting in a week on an area campus. On Feb. 5, a 14-year-old
student was killed in a middle school hallway in nearby Madison, allegedly by a
Mass shootings are rarely carried out by women, said Dr. Park Dietz, who is
president of Threat Assessment Group Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based
violence prevention firm.
A notable exception was a 1985 rampage at a Springfield, Pa., mall in which
three people were killed. In June 1986, Sylvia Seegrist was deemed guilty but
mentally ill on three counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder in
the shooting spree.
Dietz, who interviewed Seegrist after her arrest, said it was possible the
suspect in Friday's shooting had a long-standing grudge against colleagues or
superiors and felt complaints had not been dealt with fairly.
Gregg McCrary, a retired FBI agent and private criminal profiler based in
Fredericksburg, Va., said there is no typical outline of a mass shooter but
noted they often share a sense of paranoia, depression or a feeling that they
are not appreciated.