Image: University of Alabama students return
Butch Dill  /  AP
Band members from nearby Oakwood Univeristy march through the University of Alabama Huntsville campus on Monday, in Huntsville, Ala. Students are returning to class for the first time since a campus shooting claimed the lives of three professors.
updated 2/22/2010 6:10:31 PM ET 2010-02-22T23:10:31

There was no easing back into classes at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Monday: Many students and teachers had to return to the building where three professors were gunned down more than a week ago.

Classes resumed on the campus where authorities and witnesses say Amy Bishop, a biology professor bitter over being denied tenure, opened fire in a small conference room, killing three colleagues and wounding three others.

Band members from nearby Oakwood University greeted the UAH students as they returned to campus, playing music and offering hugs.

Meagan Warner, a student walking into the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, said she appreciated the support.

"I have four classes in this building today, and it helps me feel at ease and that it's safe to be back on campus again," she said.

Part of building off limits
School administrators said the corner of the building where the slayings occurred remained off limits.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, a former district attorney who is now a congressman said Monday it was a shame Bishop did not receive a mental evaluation after fatally shooting her younger brother in the family's kitchen in Braintree, Mass., in 1986. The killing was declared an accident and Bishop never faced charges.

Details about that case have emerged in the wake of the Alabama slayings. U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, a former prosecutor who oversaw the district where it happened, said state police working for his office weren't told that after Bishop shot her brother, she allegedly threatened two auto shop workers with the gun, demanding a car, or that she aimed the gun at police.

Had he known that, Delahunt said, his office would likely have sought weapons charges against Bishop and would "undoubtedly" have asked a judge to order her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

He would not speculate on whether that evaluation could have prevented the shootings in Alabama but said, "I think that opportunity was missed, and that to me is a profound tragedy in this case."

He said nothing contradicts the determination that the shooting was an accident.

The Harvard-educated Bishop, 45, remains jailed in Huntsville, charged with capital murder and attempted murder in the Feb. 12 shooting.

Insanity defense for suspect?
Police have not offered a motive, but colleagues say she had complained for months about being denied the job protections of tenure. Her attorney said she needs mental evaluations and is laying the groundwork for an insanity defense.

A few miles from the jail, students were just trying to get back to normal. Jonna Greer was excited to be going back to class. She and other students had huddled in a locked dormitory room to watch live television coverage of developments following the afternoon shooting.

"I feel the campus has been pulled together, and I've seen more blue on campus than I've ever seen before," said Greer, referring to the school color.

Killed in the shootings were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences; and two professors, Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Two of the wounded remained hospitalized Monday, professor Joseph Leahy in critical condition and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo in serious condition.

President David B. Williams greeted students and faculty members as classes resumed.

"Clearly, our number one priority for today and for the rest of this semester is for our students to return to the classroom and ensure they remain current in their studies, including those who are graduating in May," he said in a statement.

Retired teachers and faculty members from the University of Alabama and the Hudson-Alpha Institute of Biotechnology helped to fill in for teachers lost in the shooting.

Counselors were in every biology classroom as well as other classes in the Shelby Center and every classroom building on campus.

Dan Sherman, a business professor, said he and colleagues decided during a staff meeting last week to begin the first day of class by offering students a chance to share their feelings about the shootings rather than diving right into academic lectures.

A few campus police were on hand, but officials decided against a big show of force.

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


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