THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Professor held after 3 are killed at Ala. university

Report: Alleged suspect studied at Harvard

Police detained a woman yesterday after the shooting. The NBC affiliate in Huntsville, Ala., quoted school officials as saying the alleged suspect began shooting after learning at the faculty meeting that she was being denied tenure. Police detained a woman yesterday after the shooting. The NBC affiliate in Huntsville, Ala., quoted school officials as saying the alleged suspect began shooting after learning at the faculty meeting that she was being denied tenure. (Bob Gathany/Huntsville Times via Associated Press)
By Sarah Wheaton
New York Times / February 13, 2010

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NEW YORK - Three faculty members at the University of Alabama’s Huntsville campus were shot to death, and three other people were seriously wounded, at a biology faculty meeting yesterday, university officials said.

The Huntsville Times, quoting university officials, reported that a biology professor was being held in the shooting, the police said. WAFF, the NBC affiliate in Huntsville, quoted school officials as saying the professor began shooting after learning at the faculty meeting that she was being denied tenure.

The newspaper identified the professor as Amy Bishop, a Harvard-educated neuroscientist. According to a 2006 profile in the newspaper, Bishop invented a portable cell growth incubator with her husband, Jim Anderson. Police officials said that Anderson was being detained, but they did not call him a suspect.

Photographs of a suspect being led from the scene by the police appear to match images of Bishop on academic websites.

The shooting occurred in the Shelby Center at the university around 4 p.m. Central time, officials said. Few students were in the building, and none were involved in the shooting, said Ray Garner, a university spokesman. Three faculty members were killed, and three other people - two faculty members and one staff member - were taken to Huntsville Hospital, with injuries ranging from serious to critical.

Officials said the suspected shooter was detained outside of the building “without incident.’’

Justin Wright, a senior, was working in the building’s math lab on the second floor when the police burst in with guns drawn. Wright told the Huntsville Times that his first thoughts were, “I need to get down, I need to get down.’’ He added: “I’ve never seen a gun or heavy artillery like that. I was shocked.’’

The shooting came a week after a middle school student in Huntsville shot and killed a classmate, leaving the town in shock.

“This is a very safe campus,’’ Garner said. “It’s not unlike what we experienced a week ago. This town is not accustomed to shootings and having multiple dead.’’

The gray lawns of the campus were lit up by the flashing lights of police cars and ambulances with blue and yellow stripes as the police and Swat teams descended on campus. The university police were the first to respond, but the Huntsville Police Department is now handling the investigation, officials said. The Madison County Sheriff’s Department is assisting.

The university was put on lockdown “almost instantaneously,’’ said Trent Willis, chief of staff to Mayor Tommy Battle. However, some students complained on Twitter and to reporters that they did not receive the university’s alert until hours after the shooting.

“The U-Alert was triggered late because the people involved in activating that system were involved in responding to the shooting,’’ said Charles Gailes, chief of the university police, at a news conference.

“We’re going to stop, we’re going to sit down, we’re going to review what happened,’’ Gailes said. “All of these actions are going to be learning points, and we’re going to be better for this.’’

Erin Johnson, a sophomore, told the Huntsville Times that a biology faculty meeting was underway when she heard screams coming from the room.

According to the 2006 profile, Bishop and her husband tired of using old-fashioned petri dishes for cell incubation and designed a sealed, self-contained mobile cell incubation system. The system was described as reducing many of the problems with cultivating tissues in the fragile environment of the petri dish.