Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Deadly Professor

The Tenure Shooting

Debra Moriarity
Debra Moriarity

The morning of February 12, 2010, Amy Bishop taught her Introduction to Neuroscience class. She warned her graduate students that the class would be cut short, but she did in fact lecture the full period. Students report that Bishop seemed to ramble that day, and that she seemed confused when they asked her whether they were expected to attend her class on President's Day.

Student Rena Webb would later say that she saw a cylinder, maybe part of a gun, in Bishop's bag.

After class Bishop went home for a few hours, and her husband dropped her off on campus again around 3:00 p.m. She and all 12 of her departmental colleagues crowded into a small conference room on the third floor of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology. Graduate School Dean and biology professor Debra Moriarity led the routine meeting.

Thirty minutes after the meeting started, her colleagues say, Bishop pulled a gun and jumped up. She allegedly fired in a methodical line, hitting each of the first six people on one side of the conference table.

When the shots started flying, Moriarity dove under the table, crawling toward Bishop, begging her to stop. The two women briefly edged out into the hallway as Moriarity tried to reason with Bishop. Bishop pulled the trigger again, but this time the gun didn't fire. Moriarity made it back inside the conference room as Bishop reloaded. Ecology professor Bob Lawton slammed the door shut and molecular biology professor John Shriver barricaded it with an overturned coffee-service table and a small refrigerator.

Bishop allegedly ditched the gun in a second-floor restroom, then called her husband and asked him for a ride home. Police arrested her in the parking lot before James Anderson got there.

Three members of the biology department were dead and three were seriously wounded.