February 16, 2010 in Nation/World

Alabama professor went to range before shooting

Husband says his wife seemed normal
Desiree Hunter Associated Press
 

Bishop
(Full-size photo)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The husband of an Alabama professor accused of fatally shooting three colleagues said Monday that the couple went to a shooting range recently, but that he didn’t know where she got the gun she used for practice.

His description of Amy Bishop’s “normal” demeanor leading up to Friday’s shooting at a faculty meeting matched an account by a witness, who said the gathering was unremarkable until the gunfire broke out. Bishop, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, is accused shooting six people at the meeting, three fatally. Two of the survivors remained in critical condition Monday.

Bishop’s husband, James Anderson, said he knew his wife had a gun.

“I really don’t know how she got it, or where she got it from,” he told the Associated Press in an interview at his home.

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

Anderson said nothing unusual happened on their trip to the shooting range, and that his wife didn’t reveal why she took an interest in target practice. Nothing in her behavior in the days before the shooting foreshadowed the violence last week, either, he said.

“She was just a normal professor,” he said.

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.

On Monday, some victims’ relatives were questioning how Bishop was hired at the university in 2003 after she was involved years ago in separate criminal probes. University of Alabama in Huntsville officials were meeting privately to review files on her hiring.

In 1986, Bishop 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.”

Bishop is charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.

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