Over the weekend, there’s been a lot of commentary regarding the professor who, apparently because she was denied tenure, opened fire on her colleagues at a meeting at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, killing three and wounding three, two of whom were still in critical condition as of yesterday. The accused shooter then apparently abandoned the 9mm pistol in a women’s bathroom and called her husband to come pick her up. She was apprehended by police in the parking lot of the building, where she had performed her duties as a biology professor and researcher, and from which she was to depart at the end of the semester, though she had fought the original ruling for a year.
Glenn Reynolds noted that at ratemyprofessor.com, a student had claimed that she was a “socalist” [sic] who would talk about her political views outside of class. There was considerable variety of opinion about her performance as a teacher, though on the whole she received high marks. Left-leaning blogs jumped on this, citing it as an example of how right-leaning bloggers manufacture outrage by means of innuendo, and if that were all, perhaps that would be a fair assessment. (See the comments at Volokh).
Subsequently, though, it came to light that Bishop, when 20 years old and living at home with her family in Braintree, MA, killed her brother Seth, 18, with a pump-action shotgun which he and their father were licensed to use, and which they purchased from a sporting goods store after suffering a home invasion. She had managed, moments prior to that, to blow a hole in her bedroom wall with the gun, though her mother claimed she heard no blast (her father was out of the house at the time). After what some police described as a phone call from the then-District Attorney Delahunt, now a US Representative from Massachusetts, then-Police Chief Polio ordered his officers to cease booking procedures and release her, determining that the shooting was an accident. The present Police Chief of Braintree, a Mr. Frazier, recalled that some members of the department were upset with the decision in 1986/87 (the killing took place on December 6, 1986). The official police report was said to be missing, but a six-page report surfaced on the internet, alleging the two shots mentioned, whereas police involved with the incident mentioned three. The report stated that Ms. Bishop was in such an agitated emotional state that the police deemed it counterproductive to interview her at the time of her arrest. The report also indicated that in her testimony at the time Amy Bishop said the did not recall having brought the gun with her from the house. Her contention was that the gun went off as she attempted to remove the shells.
What wasn’t included in the report were the circumstances of her capture, because some of the officers who were with the department at the time averred that she was captured at gunpoint after having attempted to hijack a car. As it turns out, according to the testimony of one eye-witness, she fled from her home to a local auto dealership, where she attempted to steal a getaway vehicle, stating that her husband was pursuing her with murderous intent. She went so far as to level the gun at one of the employees, which seems a rather strange omission. Between the missing official report and what is missing from the one that remains, some have seen a cover-up, particularly because her mother apparently sat on the police board of personnel at the time. The retired Chief, Mr. Polio, strongly denies any wrongdoing, though the present department says that the official file has been missing since 1988.
The plot continued to thicken, though, when the FBI released information stating that she and her husband, James Anderson, had been questioned regarding a couple of pipe bombs sent through the mail to a one-time professor of hers with whom she had quarrelled, and from whom she had anticipated getting a negative performance review, in 1993, while a graduate student at Northeastern (she had by that time graduated from Harvard). Among the materials discovered in their investigation was the draft on her computer of a novel about a young woman who had killed her brother and decided to become a great scientist as a form of recompense. According to one anonymous “friend of the family” interviewed by The Boston Herald, she was also “obsessed with” Obama and far-left in her political outlook.
Be that as it may, it’s clear that contrary to the liberal narrative, this is a game played by both sides. The Sparkman hanging that Stacy covered was a good example of the dynamic in action, as was the Holocaust Museum shooting. Reynolds has every right to bring any bit of evidence to people’s attention that he wishes to, though one would hope that people would not take stretch speculation too far on the basis of slender evidence. It is fairly certain, at any rate, that had Napolitano’s office released the kind of report it did about a right-wing threat regarding the left, if Cass Sunstein expressed the kinds of views he has about the First Amendment from a right-leaning perspective, and had the FBI and local police scrutinized a pro-choice group in Madison, WI, the way they had the pro-life organizations, they would be screaming bloody murder. And they’d be absolutely right to do so.
Three people are dead, two clinging to life, and the woman leaves behind four children. I’m not sure what her political leanings have to do with this; there’s simply not enough information. But whatever the case, the facts themselves will be dispassionate—however they are used.
You can read a paper co-authored by Bishop on the comparative toxicity of SSRIs here (pdf).
UPDATE: Donald Douglas’s excellent post on this subject is here.
Many thanks to Atlantic Wire for the kind link.