Professor Credited With Saving Lives in Amy Bishop's Alleged Rampage

Police chief now questions result of 1986 probe into death of Bishop's brother.

ByABC News via logo
February 12, 2010, 6:34 PM

Feb. 16, 2010 — -- Colleagues are touting a University of Alabama in Huntsville biochemistry professor with heroicallly saving lives during last week's campus shooting rampage.

"I believe that she acted very quickly to try and stop Dr. Bishop from shooting again," University of Alabama Huntsville president David Williams told "Good Morning America" today, adding that professor Debra Moriarity had asked him not to talk too much about her role in stopping Amy Bishop's alleged rampage that killed three and wounded three others. "It's just unbelievable that someone could act that way in such terrible circumstances."

Moriarity, 55, is a professor whose lab was next door to Bishop's lab. She was also believed to be Bishop's closest friend in the department.

In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Moriarity gave a moment by moment account of how a departmental meeting was turned into a slaughterhouse.

The shooting erupted about an hour into the meeting when a dozen people were sitting at a round table. Moriarity was looking at some papers when Bishop stood and fired a shot at the person closest to her. When she looked up, the chairman of the department Gopi K. Podila had been shot in the head and Bishop was firing a second round at the person sitting next to Podila, Adriel D. Johnson Sr., Moriarity said.

Bishop was going down the line, shooting each person in the head, although the sixth person was shot in the chest, she told the magazine.

Moriarity and others who were sitting on the side of the table furthest from Bishop "dropped to the floor," according to survivor Joseph Ng, who described the incident to a friend in an e-mail.

Moriarity said crawled across the floor under the table to Bishop. "I was thinking 'Oh, my God, this has to stop," she said.

The professor said she pulled and then pushed on Bishop's leg, yelling, "I have helped you before, I can help you again!"

Bishop pulled her leg away from Moriarity's grip and kept shooting, she said. Moriarity crawled past Bishop and partly into the hallway when she said Bishop turned towards her friend, the gun gripped with both hands and a look of fury on her face.

"Intense eyes, a set jaw," Moriarity told the Chronicle. As Moriarity, still on her hands and knees, looked up helplessly at her one-time friend, Bishop pulled the trigger. Click. She fired again. Click.

As Bishop stopped to reload, Moriarity and the others pushed Bishop out of the room and quickly barricaded the door with a table so Bishop couldn't reenter the room and resume shooting.

"Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush," Ng told the Associated Press. "It took a lot of guts to just go up to her."

"There was a time when I didn't think I'd come out of the room alive," he said. "I don't think any of us thought we'd come out alive."

"We're very proud of Debra and hope we can work with her to bring her back to the classroom and her position as soon as possible," Williams said.

Williams said the school continues to struggle in the aftermath of Friday's shooting and is planning a memorial service for the three slain faculty members on Friday.

Question linger over how Bishop was hired despite a questionable background.

Bishop was faulted, but never charged in her brother's 1986 shooting death and was questioned, and again never charged, in a 1993 attempted mail bombing of a Harvard professor. Those crimes have come under fresh scrutiny as investigators wonder what evidence may have been missed.

One issue that has been raised is whether the investigation into the death of Bishop's brother was influenced by the fact Bishop's mother was a town official at the time.