Victims of Alabama-Huntsville Faculty Shooting Sue Over Killings

Relatives of two professors shot and killed during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville last year filed a lawsuit Friday claiming school administrators’ failure to follow safety rules contributed to the mass slaying.

The lawsuits, filed in state court in Huntsville by survivors of Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel D. Johnson Sr., contend UAH officials knew that Amy Bishop, the professor charged in the killings, was mentally unstable yet didn’t take steps that could have prevented the slayings.

Aside from Bishop and her husband, James, the suit names UAH Provost Vistasp M. Karbhari, who also serves as executive vice president for academics.

The university had no immediate comment on the suit, the second one filed over the shooting.

Roy Miller, an attorney for Bishop, has said she will likely use an insanity defense. She is jailed without bond in the killings.

“The lawsuit does not come as any surprise. It’s to be expected,” he said.

Davis, Johnson and Gopi K. Podila were killed when gunfire erupted during a biology department faculty meeting last Feb. 12. Three other people were shot, two critically, but survived.

The suits claim school officials had warning signs that Bishop could be dangerous yet failed to notify police, as required by university regulations.

“We have learned from departmental e-mails that Dr. Bishop’s severe mental instability was known by administrators, some of whom she had threatened, harassed and hounded following denial of tenure,” said Douglas Fierberg, a Washington attorney for both families, in a statement.

Davis’ husband, Sammie Lee Davis, said his wife was slain by “her mentally ill colleague.”

“We hope this action will help prevent future tragedies by educating the public on a university’s responsibilities when dealing with people under severe psychological distress,” he said in the statement.

The two faculty members who were seriously injured in the shooting, Joseph Leahy and Stephanie Monticciolo, filed suit against Bishop and her husband in November.