Posted: Feb 16, 2010 9:55 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5
Updated: Feb 16, 2010 9:55 AM
A survivor of the Alabama university shooting said the professor charged in the attack methodically shot the victims in the head until her gun seemed to jam 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.
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."
He said Debra Moriarity, a professor of biochemistry, had probably saved their lives by leading the charge to drive Bishop outside.
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.
Ng said the meeting Friday 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 in an e-mail to a colleague at the University of California-Irvine.
Ng told the AP the shooting stopped almost as soon as it started. He and others then rushed Bishop out of the room and barricaded the door shut with a table.
Ng said the charge was led by Debra Moriarity, a professor of biochemistry, after Bishop aimed the gun at her and attempted to fire but it didn't shoot.
He said Moriarity pushed her way to 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."
Ng said the survivors worried she would shoot her way through the door, and frantically worked up backup plan in case she burst through. But she never did.
"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 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 have also questioned how 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.
Her husband James Anderson said his wife had practiced at a shooting range not long before the shooting. Anderson said she acted normally while they were at the range and none of her behavior in recent days foreshadowed the rampage.
"She was just a normal professor," he told The Associated Press during an interview at his home Monday.
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 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 if it was the same gun that her husband knew about.
In 1986, 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 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."
"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.