Amy Bishop Killed Before

Amy Bishop Arrest Photo

Bob Gathany/Huntsville Times/AP

It was widely reported yesterday that Amy Bishop, the UAH professor who murdered three faculty members after being denied tenure, had killed before.  Boston’s WCVBTV5 reports,

The biology professor accused of gunning down five colleagues and a staff member at the University of Alabama at Huntsville on Friday was released from police custody 23 years ago after she shot and killed her brother in Braintree, police announced Saturday.

Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier said Amy Bishop was detained following the death of her brother on Dec. 6, 1986, then released without being charged because the death was ruled an accidental shooting. Frazier said Amy Bishop shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth Bishop, in the chest with a 12-gauge shotgun at the family’s home in Braintree, then ran into the street and aimed the gun at a passing vehicle before fleeing from the scene. Amy Bishop, who was 20 at the time, was arrested at gunpoint by Braintree officers.

Bishop was never booked, however, and all local police records of the case have gone missing, with the exception of an entry in the police log noting an accidental shooting, Frazier said. “The report’s gone, removed from the files,” he said. “Somebody has it. We don’t.”

Stacy McCain has rounded up some commentary from police officers who remember the case, which suggests there was some kind of coverup.

Braintree officers who remember the 1986 shooting said that former police Chief John Polio dismissed detectives from the case and ordered the department to release Amy Bishop after a telephone conversation with former district attorney William Delahunt, who is currently a U.S. congressman from Massachusetts.”The police officers here were very upset about that,” said Frazier, who was a patrolman at the time and spoke to officers who remembered the incident that day, including one who filed a report on it.

A Boston Globe report, however, contradicts this.

But the Norfolk County district attorney’s office this evening released a six-page report from its archives that showed State Police investigators reviewed the case with Braintree Police and concluded that Seth Bishop’s death was an accident.

In the report, dated March 30, 1987, a Braintree Police captain said that Amy Bishop was released on the day of the shooting because she was too emotional to be questioned properly and because her mother said the shooting was accidental.

Local and State Police investigators returned to the home 11 days later to meet with Amy and her parents individually.

According to the investigation report, after Amy and her father had a disagreement, he left for a shopping trip and she went to her room. Amy decided to go to her parents’ room to teach herself to load the shotgun the family had acquired the previous year for protection after a break-in. She succeeded but could not remove the shells, and the gun fired in the bedroom. Amy then went downstairs to ask for help unloading it and inadvertently shot her brother while her mother watched, according to the report.

Their stories to the detectives contained some discrepancies. Amy’s mother said Amy asked her for help unloading the gun; she told Amy to be careful where she pointed it, and that Amy turned and accidentally shot her brother. Her mother said she screamed and called the police, as Amy ran out of the house.

Amy said she asked her brother, not her mother, for help unloading the gun, and that she was pointing it beside her leg for safety. She said her brother told her to point it up instead. As he walked across the kitchen floor, someone said something, and Amy turned and the gun went off.

A NYT report adds,

But Chief Frazier said in his statement that the officer on duty, Ronald Solimini, remembered that Dr. Bishop had shot and killed her brother after an argument. She fired another round from the shotgun into the ceiling as she left the home, the officer said, and fled down the street with the shotgun. The officer also remembered her pointing the shotgun at a vehicle in an attempt to get the driver to stop, the chief said.

Another officer, Timothy Murphy, seized the shotgun, and Dr. Bishop was handcuffed and transported to the police station under arrest, Chief Frazier said.

He said that he spoke with the person who was the booking officer at the time, who recalled getting a call “he believes was from then-Police Chief John Polio or possibly from a captain on Chief Polio’s behalf” to stop the process. Dr. Bishop was released from police custody, and the two left the police station by a rear exit, Chief Frazier said.

Even from the accounts defending the quick dismissal of the case, it doesn’t sound like an accident.  Certainly, immediately after an argument seems an odd time to try to teach yourself how to use a shotgun.  To ward off intruders?

Either way, it would seem that we’re dealing with a mentally unstable individual.   A normal person would never be able to forgive herself for killing her brother through her own abject stupidity — as a 20-year-old, no less.   And, if it was an intentional shooting over some petty dispute — followed by a killing spree a quarter century later over a bigger dispute — we’d seem to have a sociopath on our hands.

Oh, in a very weird coincidence — and I’ve got zero reason to believe it’s anything other than that — Bill Delahunt is considering retiring from Congress.  The news was reported in yesterday’s BoGlo but he made the announcement Friday.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Oh the nerve of some “hicks” in a backwater college not considering keeping a Harvard Educated talent!

    Tell me please, is there something about the water they drink up there outside of Boston??? Why this sense of elitist entitlement?

    It has been a long journey from a former State-Sponsored Congregational (Puritan) “preachers’ school” to the modern American vanguard of the Socialist Revolution… what happened??? And when did “change” happen?

    Maybe time to start debunking the myth of a “Harvard education.”

  2. JKB says:

    Now we learn that she and her husband were questioned in a mail bomb attempt.

    This woman seems to have had tentacles everywhere and they are unravelling.