Professor in gun rampage killed three on campus
Police suspect mum of four may have killed brother 24 years ago
Published 15/02/2010 | 05:00
A Harvard-educated professor who went on a shooting rampage at the University of Alabama may have escaped charges for the killing of her teenage brother in 1986 because of a police cover-up.
Amy Bishop, a 42-year-old neurobiologist, could face the death penalty for allegedly shooting dead the chairman of the biology department and two other professors last Friday after being denied a permanent university post. Two professors and an assistant were wounded in the incident.
The shooting has prompted police to re-open the case of her younger brother's death in 1986.
The police chief in the Boston suburb of Braintree said at the weekend that Ms Bishop, then 19, was freed after his predecessor apparently halted the investigation. "I don't want to use the word cover-up. I don't know what the thought process was at the time," Paul Frazier said.
Ms Bishop shot her brother Seth (18) a violinist and prize-winning science student, with a shotgun during an argument, he said. She was arrested at gunpoint after allegedly pointing the gun at a car to try to force the driver to stop.
The police chief at the time, John Polio, apparently ordered officers to free Ms Bishop and declare the shooting accidental.
"I spoke with the retired deputy chief who was responsible for booking Ms Bishop. He said he had started the process when he received a call from then police chief John Polio, or possibly from a captain on Chief Polio's behalf," Mr Frazier said.
"He was instructed to stop the booking process. The release of Ms Bishop did not sit well with the police officers," he added.
According to Mr Frazier, Ms Bishop's mother, Judith, was a public official who sat on a police personnel committee.
Apart from a short entry in the Braintree police log, the case file on the death, including a seven-page report, has disappeared.
Mr Frazier said that he and the mayor would meet the district attorney to start a review of the shooting.
Mr Polio, now 87, denied that the police had improperly let Ms Bishop go free. "(There's) no cover-up, no missing records. If they're missing, they're missing since I retired," Mr Polio said.
Mr Polio denied that he was close to Ms Bishop's mother.
Ms Bishop, who has four children, obtained a PhD from Harvard University in 1993.
She began teaching at the University of Alabama in 2003. She was told last year, however, that she would not get a tenured, or permanent, position and that this was to be her last term. Colleagues described her as a brilliant researcher but a poor teacher and communicator.
She held her regular anatomy and neuroscience class on Friday before going to a faculty meeting at a university building in Huntsville, Alabama, where she allegedly pulled out a 9mm handgun and began firing.
Witnesses said that she then left the room and dumped the gun in a lavatory before being arrested.
When she was led away she told local television: "It didn't happen. There's no way. They're still alive." ( © The Times, London)