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    • What Protests in Lebanon, France, Chile and Ecuador Have In Common
      There’s some important events happening today: another Brexit vote, and the Canadian federal election (whose results are not obvious), but we won’t know how either of those end till later, so let’s discuss some popular protests of massive size. In France the protests were sparked by an increase in diesel taxes. The demands included an […]
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Amy Bishop and Massachusetts Politics

The scene of the crime, Dec. 6, 1986

I’m still obsessed with the Amy Bishop case–most of all I’m fascinated by the events of December 6, 1986, when Bishop shot and killed her younger brother Seth. As I’m sure you all remember, Bishop is now in jail, after being charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder for shooting six of her colleagues in the Biology Department at the University of Alabama Huntsville, three of them fatally.

Over the past few days, a great deal more information has come out and it appears more and more likely that local politics played a role in preventing Bishop from being charged with a crime in connection with the shooting of her brother Seth on December 6, 1986 in their home in Braintree, Massachusetts.

To recap, a day after the shootings in Alabama, current Braintree Chief of Police Paul Frazier released a statement in which he criticized the handling of the 1986 shooting by then Chief John Polio, now retired. Frazier had spoken to Officer Ronald Solimini, who in 1986 had arrested 21-year-old Amy Bishop and brought her to the police station to be booked.

Solimini told Chief Frazier that the file on the case had been missing at least since 1988, when Chief Polio’s successor, Chief Edward Flynn looked for it (I would love to know why he was looking for it).

Solimini said he had been in the process of booking Bishop for murder (witnesses say that word had been written on the booking sheet) when he was told by a Lieutenant to release Bishop to her parents. Supposedly the order had come down from then Chief of Police John Polio. From Chief Frazier’s statement of Feb. 13, 2010 (click on link in article to see Word document):

“I was not on duty at the time of the incident, but I recall how frustrated the members of the department were over the release of Ms. Bishop. It was a difficult time for the department as there had been three (3) shooting incidents within a short timeframe. The release of Ms. Bishop did not sit well with the police officers and I can assure you that this would not happen in this day and age.”

“It is troubling that this incident has come to light. I can assure you that the members of the Braintree Police Department maintain the highest of integrity. Since it was discovered this morning that the report is missing, I have been in contact with Mayor Joseph Sullivan. Mayor Sullivan and I have spoken with District Attorney William Keating and we will be meeting with him next week to discuss this situation. The Mayor supports a full review of this matter and agrees that we want to know where the records are.”

Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA)

After Frazier’s public statement, a March 1987 report by the State Police (PDF) was released to the public. Based on this report, then Norfolk County District Attorney William Delahunt, now a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, had ruled the the death of Seth Bishop to be accidental and no charges were filed against Amy Bishop, according to Frazier.

On Feb. 16, Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan announced that the missing report on the 1986 shooting (PDF) had been found in the files of an unnamed police officer. Who was that officer? No one is telling as yet.

Neither the Braintree police report nor the State Police report included the information that after shooting her brother, Amy Bishop had held two auto mechanics at gunpoint at a car dealership near her home and demanded the keys to a car, or that after leaving the dealership she had pointed her shotgun in the face of a 16-year-old boy who was working at a newspaper distribution office. It was there that Bishop was finally arrested, but not before she also trained the shotgun on police officers.

Basically, Bishop had gone on a rampage around her neighborhood on Dec. 6, 1986. After discharging her 12-gauge pump-action shotgun three times in her home, killing her brother with the second shot, she had run out of the house, tried to stop a man in a car by pointing the shotgun at him (that was in the police report for some reason), gone into the car dealership in search of a get-away car, then tried again to get a car by pointing her shotgun at a 16-year old boy. Finally, she pointed the shotgun at two Braintree police officers who were trying to disarm her, according to Boston’s WCVB, Channel 5.

A source close to the shooting investigation told NewsCenter 5 that police officers who arrested Bishop in 1986 called it the “scariest day” of their lives.

“I remember looking at her and thinking ‘She killed her brother and now she’s going to kill me,'” one officer, who did not want to be named, told NewsCenter 5’s Kelley Tuthill.

William Keating, the current Norfolk County district attorney, said Bishop should have been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon for her alleged actions after shooting her brother in 1986.

“There was a mistake in not doing it. I don’t think you can justify it,” Keating said.

Come on. Bishop should have been charged with manslaughter at the very least. The weapon she used, a 12-gauge shotgun, had to be manually pumped in order to chamber a round. And it could not just “go off” accidentally. She would have had to pull the trigger. Amy had loaded the weapon in her bedroom, where it supposedly discharged “accidentally,” blowing a hole in the wall. She had tried to cover up the hole before going downstairs. Her mother Judy Bishop later claimed she did not hear the shotgun blast upstairs. Continue reading

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A History of Violence

Something is very wrong with Amy Bishop, and there has been something wrong with her for a very long time. But just what is her problem, and how did she manage to keep it at least somewhat under control for so long? As a psychologist, I have found this story so fascinating that I have barely been able to focus on anything else for the past few days.

Amy Bishop is a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntville who shot six of her colleagues at a Biology Department meeting on Friday, February 12. She had taken a 9-millimeter pistol with her to the meeting, loaded with 16 bullets. She did not have a permit for the weapon. She has been charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder so far. From The New York Times:

Those killed were Gopi Podila, 52, the chairman of the biology department; Maria Ragland Davis, 50, a professor who studied plant pathogens; and Adriel Johnson, 52, a cell biologist who also taught Boy Scouts about science.

Two of the wounded were Joseph Leahy, 50, a microbiologist, and Stephanie Monticciolo, 62, a staff assistant, both of whom were in critical condition. The third was Luis Cruz-Vera, 40, a molecular biologist, who was released from the hospital on Saturday.

A neuroscientist with a PhD from Harvard University, Bishop was working on a start-up company to market a portable cell incubator that she had invented with her husband. The couple had won the $25,000 seed money in an Alabama business competition. Bishop and Anderson have four children, the oldest of whom is 18.

Bishop had been denied tenure twice by her department, and her appeal had been denied in April of 2009. At the end of the Spring semester she would have had to leave UAH. She felt she had been unfairly treated because of personality issues, and had apparently retained a lawyer to help her fight the decision. However, with her qualifications, Bishop should have been able to find another teaching job easily. On the other hand, why did she end up at UAH in the first place when she had such outstanding qualifications?

My excuse for writing about this at TC is that, according to the Boston Herald, quoting “a family source,” Bishop

was a far-left political extremist who was “obsessed” with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.

In addition, many right-wing blogs are trying to turn this tragic story into a political issue, claiming that Amy Bishop is a radical socialist, and supposedly that should explain her losing control and going on a shooting rampage.

At least one blog is suggesting the shootings were based on race, because most of the people Bishop shot were people of color. I also saw this suggestion made on Twitter several time yesterday.

…Bishop shot almost every non-white faculty member in the department. (She also shot and wounded two white victims, a professor and a staff member.) She killed both African-American professors in the department (one of whom was too junior to have had anything to do with Bishop’s tenure decision). She killed the department chair, who was ethnically South Asian. A Latino faculty member was wounded. There may only be two non-white faculty left in the department. Whether she intended it or not, Amy Bishop effected a racial purge of the Alabama Huntsville biology department.

The following is a summary of what I have learned about Amy Bishop so far. Continue reading