Image: Amy Bishop
Dave Dieter  /  Huntsville Times via AP
Amy Bishop is taken into custody by Huntsville, Ala., police Friday in connection with three fatal shootings on the University of Alabama in Huntsville campus.
updated 2/18/2010 1:52:59 PM ET 2010-02-18T18:52:59

The bullet police say Amy Bishop fired into fellow college professor Joseph Leahy's head has left him in a neuro-intensive care unit, where tubes and a maze of medical technology help sustain him.

The microbiologist's fight to recover mirrors the challenge facing the biology department where he and Bishop taught at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, the scene of a mass shooting six days ago that claimed the lives of the department head and two other professors.

Leahy, another professor and a staff member were wounded Feb. 12, when authorities allege Amy Bishop pulled a pistol at a faculty meeting and started shooting her colleagues.

With three professors dead, two wounded and one charged with murder, "our department has pretty much been cut in half," said Leland Cseke, a faculty member. "It's devastating."

And the other half of the 14-member department is traumatized; most of them witnessed the attack up close.

Trying to cope with loss
Remaining department members have been meeting in small groups, said one of them, John Shriver. They're trying to help each other cope with the loss of Maria Ragland Davis, Gopi Podila and Adriel Johnson, all 52 and holding doctorates in the field.

Staff assistant Stephanie Monticciolo was hospitalized in critical condition Thursday. Another faculty member, Luis Cruz-Vera, was shot in the chest and has been released.

The devastated department takes an early step in its recovery Thursday as the family of Podila, the biology chairman who was born in India, holds a public visitation and a smaller funeral for close friends and relatives. Services for Johnson and Davis are to follow Friday and Saturday, and the school plans an evening memorial for all the victims Friday.

Bishop, an assistant professor, is accused of shooting all six in a small conference room. The Harvard-trained researcher and inventor was in her final year of teaching at the school after being denied tenure last April, but the motive for the shooting remains unclear. Podila had supported her tenure application.

Bishop, 44, remains jailed on one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.

At a school respected for its academics, and a department recognized for its work in a city of NASA engineers and other high-tech industries, the shooting left students without teachers and administrators trying to regroup amid the mourning.

The university proudly notes its ranking by U.S. News & World Report among the 150 best national doctoral universities in the U.S., and the biology department is particularly well-regarded for its achievements in biotechnology, school spokesman Ray Garner said.

"These guys are doing some really good work," he said.

‘Always there for the students’
Podila was chair of the biological sciences department at UAH, where he began working in 2001 and did research involving plant biology and work that can be used in the development of biofuels. He was admired for his ability to not only run the department and "keep everybody happy," Shriver said, but also to continue doing important research, travel overseas on behalf of the department and still teach.

Davis had industry experience that set her apart from other faculty members who had more academic backgrounds, said another professor, Joseph Ng.

"The students just loved her. She always had a very nice demeanor, and she was always there for the students," he said.

Johnson was known for his sense of humor and students "flocked to him" because of his willingness to open up to them, said Florence Holland, an administrator at Auburn University who knew and worked with him.

A mentor for minority students, Johnson started at UAH in 1989 and was also involved with the school's Minority Graduate Student Association.

"He was always trying to encourage underrepresented groups to go into math and science and engineering," Holland said. "Some people, when they get to a certain level of success are like 'I have mine, you get yours,' but Dr. Johnson wasn't like that. He was very willing to work with students and just overall passionate about that."

UAH President David B. Williams said for now the school is concentrating on grieving. Work will begin soon to rebuild the department, he said, and several colleges in the state have offered teachers to help fill the gap in the meantime.

"The overwhelming response has just been enormous," Williams said.

Leahy remained in critical condition Thursday at Huntsville Hospital, though he already has shown signs of progress, according to a blog his family has been writing.

"Joe has been showing the most body movement/activity since the shooting, particularly on the left side," a recent posting reads. "Neurosurgeon used term 'purposeful' in describing the movements."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Survivor recalls faculty shooting

  1. Closed captioning of: Survivor recalls faculty shooting

    >> games in a moment, but now to a firsthand account of last week's deadly shooting at the university of alabama in huntsville from one of the survivors. three faculty members were killed, three others injured. nbc's tom truong has the latest.

    >> reporter: matt, good morning. the accused shooter, amy bishop, is in jail facing capital murder charges. one survivor says bishop struck without warning.

    >> i just don't understand how amy could do this. i don't -- i just don't understand.

    >> reporter: debra moriarity is 1 of 12 professors who attended the fateful faculty meeting on friday.

    >> it was just a regular, pretty mundane meeting.

    >> reporter: about 30 minutes later, everything changed.

    >> a bang, a gunshot, and looked up and amy was standing there with a gun and shooting. my thought was she is going to go around the room and shoot everyone. i mean, when i saw what was happening, it looked like she was just methotically going around the room.

    >> reporter: moriarity says she pleaded with the alleged shooter, amy bishop.

    >> i started yelling at her, you know, to, " amy , don't do this," i yelled "think about my grandson, think about my daughter, don't do this, don't do this."

    >> reporter: moriarity then ducked under a table.

    >> i got down and crawled across under a table to where amy was. i grabbed at her leg and she kind of shook her leg free from me.

    >> reporter: she eventually crawled to an open door and says bishop followed her out of the room and pulled the trigger, but the gun didn't go off.

    >> she pulled the trigger again. it clicked again. the gun didn't fire. had the gun fired, i'd be one of the casualties, too.

    >> reporter: moriarity then ran back into the conference room and the survivors barricaded the door. minutes later, authorities arrested bishop. the shooter killed three and wounded three others. moriarity says there's a lot of pain and frustration.

    >> yeah, i'm angry with her. i'm very angry with her. how dare she? how dare she do this?

    >> reporter: the motive for the shootings is unclear, but bishop was denied a tenured position with the school. moriarity says it was all bishop talked about in the last few months.

    >> every time she saw me, she brought it up. i know she made the comment to me that she felt that her career was ended.

    >> reporter: what began as a routine meeting ended with the loss of three lives, three colleagues moriarity will never forget.

    >> he had a great sense of humor, very giving, caring, nice person. johnson, he cared so much that his students and the students he worked with do well. maria, sweet is what i can tell you about maria, sweet. never said bad things or mean things about anyone. it's awful. i can't imagine what it's going to be like going back there, and none of us can, but it's going to be awful without them.

    >> reporter: in 1986 , bishop shot and killed her younger brother . at the time, it was ruled an accidental shooting, but in light of the events here, authorities are questioning whether that was the right call. matt?

    >> tom, thank you very much. it's a terrible story. and


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments