Monday, February 15, 2010

Alabama Professor Kills Colleagues in Faculty Meetings

The Chronicle of Higher Education has coverage of the biology professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville who shot and killed three of her colleagues in a faculty meeting.  The professor is a woman, which is unusual in this kind of massacre of work colleagues. She had been denied tenure - a full year earlier - and had both filed an appeal and was well on her way to getting another job in the area.  Her husband dropped her off at 3 pm for the meeting, as usual, and she called an hour later asking him to pick her up.  By the time he arrived, she was in police custody.  As seems always to be the case, "There had been no threats or hints of violence, he said, nor was he aware that his wife even had a gun."

The kicker comes near the end of this piece, talking about Anderson, the husband, and Bishop, the wife and alleged shooter:
The two met when they were undergraduates at Northeastern University, and Mr. Anderson was dating Ms. Bishop when she shot her brother to death more than two decades ago. He called that shooting "an absolute accident." The Boston Globe reported that there is a controversy over whether, in fact, the shooting was accidental.
 The Globe report reads in part:
The argument was not between the brother and sister, it was between the sister and her father, the report said. The young woman told them that after the argument, she had decided to practice how to load a shotgun the family had bought for self-defense after a previous break-in.

She said she loaded it but had trouble unloading it and it accidentally went off in her bedroom. Still hoping to unload it, she said, she went downstairs to ask her brother to help her, accidentally shooting him. Her mother said she had witnessed the incident and generally corroborated her account.
In Huntsville 24 years later, one of the three dead colleagues was the department chair, Gopi K. Podila, who had supported Bishop's tenure bid.

The other two victims, Maria Ragland Davis and Ariel D. Johnson, were Black faculty who did additional work on science in developing countries and in U.S. minority communties, respectively.

Another faculty member, Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera was injured but released. Joseph G. Leahy (also faculty) and Stephanie Monticciolo (staff) remain in serious condition.

The Department of Biological Sciences at UA Huntsville lists 14 faculty members on its website.   Five of them were faculty of color.  Bishop apparently killed three of the five, and tried to kill a fourth.  Joseph D. Ng, an Asian American, is one of two surviving faculty of color in the department, and the only one who was unharmed.     

Much of the coverage is skeptical about the explanation of revenge for a tenure denial, and this skepticism is fueled by Bishop's apparent murder of her lead supporter, the department chair. Although two surviving victimes, Leahy and Monticciolo, are white, it is worth asking whether this might have been a racial hate crime.


UPDATE 2/16: In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the faculty member who apparently interfered with Amy Bishop's shooting spree,  Debra M. Moriarity,  offers an account that leads to this description:
Apparently, Ms. Bishop was simply going down the line, starting with the people closest to her, killing Mr. Podila, Adriel D. Johnson Sr., and Maria Ragland Davis, all professors, and severely wounding Stephanie Monticciolo, a department administrator, and Joseph G. Leahy, a professor.  All were shot in the head.
The implication is that execution-style head shots were administered by the biology professor to her department colleagues in the arbitrary order in which people happened to sit at that particular meeting.  The only untouched faculty of color in the department, Professor Ng, was indeed present.

Prof. Moriarity apparently got to Prof Bishop as she continued to fire by crawling towards her under the conference table.  A few seconds later, she arrived at Bishop's legs.
Ms. Bishop, who continued shooting the entire time, then turned her attention to Ms. Moriarity, placing two hands on the gun and pointing it at her. Ms. Bishop's expression was angry—"intense eyes, a set jaw," Ms. Moriarity recalled.

With Ms. Moriarity looking up at her, Ms. Bishop pulled the trigger twice. The gun clicked, apparently out of bullets.
This suggests that Moriarity didn't stop Bishop at all.  Bishop would apparently have killed Moriarity - "her closest colleague" in the department - and perhaps everyone else in the room if she hadn't run out of bullets.

I am skeptical of this scenario of the shooting gallery. We shall see.

UPDATE 2/22 - the New York Times has more on Bishop's  history of rages and tantrums.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Fine Art of Killing

Here's a  good LA Weekly profile of Rodney Alcala, "Dating Game" winner and serial killer.

Anti-Mafia Uprising in Italy

Roberto Saviano wrote a great book called Gomorrah, which discusses the globalized business structure of organized crime, its interconnection with legit firms in sectors like fashion, and its pervasive local effects.  Now he has a piece in the NY Times:
This month, rioting by African immigrants broke out in Rosarno, in southern Italy, after at least one immigrant was shot with an air rifle. The riots were widely portrayed as clashes between immigrants and native Italians, but they were really a revolt against the ’Ndrangheta, the powerful Calabrian mafia. Anyone who seeks to negate or to minimize this motive is not familiar with these places where everything — jobs, wages, housing — is controlled by criminal organizations.
After describing the riots, Saviano says, "It’s a mistake to view the Rosarno rioters as criminals. The Rosarno riots were not about attacking the law, but about gaining access to the law." But he goes on to explain the logic of gangster organizing that could change the immigrants' stance:
if the Africans in Rosarno had been organized at a criminal level, they would have had a way to negotiate with the Calabrian Mafia. They would have been able to obtain better working and living conditions. They wouldn’t have had to riot.

The title is "Italy's African Heroes."  It looks like the state agrees with the mob on the need to strip them of hero status -- which will only augment the mob.

Saviano says that Americans have also already seen this movie:
Italy is a country that’s forgotten how its emigrants were treated in the United States, how the discrimination they suffered was precisely what allowed the Mafia to take root there. It was extremely difficult for many Italian immigrants, who did not feel protected or represented by anyone else, to avoid the clutches of the mob. It’s enough to remember Joe Petrosino, the Italian-born New York City police officer who was murdered in 1909 for taking on the Mafia, to recognize the price honest Italians paid.
 The nice thing about this piece is that it sees that another way is possible - though interestingly not for the Italians by themselves.
 To those African immigrants I say: don’t go — don’t leave us alone with the mafias.