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Professor held over killings shot dead her teen brother

When a young woman in Massachusetts killed her brother with a shotgun blast in 1986, authorities waited more than a week to question family members and the death was ultimately ruled an accident.

Now, a quarter-century later, Amy Bishop (44) is accused in another shooting -- an attack that killed three fellow biology professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

In the days since Friday's shooting, revelations about Bishop's past have raised questions about whether the violence could have been prevented.

In the latest twist, police said she had also been charged with assaulting a woman in 2002 during a tirade over a child's booster seat at a restaurant.

The story started more than two decades ago when police were called to the Braintree, Massachusetts, home Bishop shared with her parents. Authorities found her 18-year-old student brother, Seth, dead of a shotgun wound to the chest.

Bishop's father later told police he and his daughter had a disagreement and she went to her room. She said she had wanted to learn to load a shotgun her parents had bought after a recent break-in.

Bishop said she accidentally fired the gun in her bedroom, then went downstairs to ask her brother to help. She said the gun went off again as Sethwalked across the kitchen.

She told police she ran away and thought she dropped the gun, which went off a third time. But witnesses say she fled with the gun to a car dealership, where she pointed it at staff and demanded a getaway car.

She was never charged and the authorities declared the whole thing an accident.

The current district attorney, William Keating, said that newly found police reports show there was probable cause to arrest Bishop in 1986 on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition.

But, Keating said, the reports do not contradict accounts that the shooting was an accident.

Bishop and her husband, James Anderson, graduated in 1988 with biology degrees. In 1993, Bishop earned a doctorate in genetics from Harvard.

That same year, the couple were questioned after two mail bombs were sent to a professor she worked with in Boston. The explosives did not go off.

In 2003, Bishop and Anderson moved to Huntsville, to raise their four children. Bishop appeared to be a rising star -- but she was recently denied tenure and was unhappy that she would be forced to look for work elsewhere after this term.

Then on Friday afternoon. about 12 teachers were sitting in a conference room at long table when gunfire erupted.

Witness Professor Joseph Ng said Bishop shot three people dead with a 9mm handgun as survivors dived under the table desperate for cover. Three people were wounded.

Within seconds, the shooting stopped. During the lull, Debra Moriarity, a biochemistry professor, scrambled towards Bishop and urged her to stop, Prof Ng said.

Bishop aimed at Moriarity and attempted to fire, but the gun did not go off. The survivors forced Bishop into a hallway and barricaded themselves in the room. Bishop was arrested moments later outside.

Today, she was under extra guard at an Alabama jail.

hnews@herald.ie


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