The shadow of the past

As the background of Amy Bishop, the primary suspect in the University of Alabama faculty meeting massacre, came further into view it emerged that she had shot her younger brother 24 years ago but was never charged. The Boston Globe has a link to Braintree Policy Chief Paul Frazier’s statement describing what he knew about the suspect. She had killed her brother in what was officially termed an accident, but apparently there were significant questions at the time about the resolution of the case. The relevant parts of the Chief Frazier’s statement are reproduced verbatim afther the “More”. The highlights are mine.


“I have been in contact with the Huntsville Police Department to confirm that the suspect in their shooting had been involved in a shooting incident in Braintree 24 years ago. Their investigators will be back in touch with us within a couple of days.”

“The suspect in the Huntsville shooting, Amy Bishop had been involved in a shooting incident in Braintree, Massachusetts in December of 1986. I located the Day Log from December of 1986 and found that the incident had occurred on December 6th. After finding the report number I looked in our archived files for the report. I was unable to locate the report.”

“Officer Ronald Solimini informed me that he wrote the report and said that I wouldn’t find it as it has been missing from the files for over 20 years. He said that former Police Chief Edward Flynn had looked for the report and that it was missing. He believes this was in 1988.”

Officer Solimini recalled the incident as follows: He said he remembers that Ms. Bishop fired a round from a pump action shotgun into the wall of her bedroom. She had a fight with her brother and shot him, which caused his death. She fired a third round from the shotgun into the ceiling as she exited the home. She fled down the street with the shotgun in her hand. At one point she allegedly pointed the shotgun at a motor vehicle in an attempt to get the driver to stop. Officer Solimini found her behind a business on Washington Street. Officer Timothy Murphy was able to take control of the suspect at gunpoint and seized the shotgun. Ms. Bishop was subsequently handcuffed and transported to the police station under arrest.”

“Officer Solimini informed me that before the booking process was completed Ms. Bishop was released from custody without being charged.”

“I (Chief Frazier) spoke with the retired Deputy Chief who was then a Lieutenant and was responsible for booking Ms. Bishop. He said he had started the process when he received a phone call he believes was from then Police Chief John Polio or possibly from a captain on Chief Polio’s behalf. He was instructed to stop the booking process. At some point Ms. Bishop was turned over to her mother and they left the building via a rear exit.”

Braintree Police Lieutenant Karen MacAleese was a high school classmate and confirmed from photographs that the suspect is the same Amy Bishop who lived in Braintree.

“I was not on duty at the time of the incident, but I recall how frustrated the members of the department were over the release of Ms. Bishop. It was a difficult time for the department as there had been three (3) shooting incidents within a short timeframe. The release of Ms. Bishop did not sit well with the police officers and I can assure you that this would not happen in this day and age.

“It is troubling that this incident has come to light. I can assure you that the members of the Braintree Police Department maintain the highest of integrity. Since it was discovered this morning that the report is missing, I have been in contact with Mayor Joseph Sullivan. Mayor Sullivan and I have spoken with District Attorney William Keating and we will be meeting with him next week to discuss this situation. The Mayor supports a full review of this matter and agrees that we want to know where the records are.”


It’s an astounding statement which almost makes it sound like an investigation was fixed with a call. A parking ticket would not surprise, but more serious crimes, that would be something. That appearance may not of course be true. But does raise questions and Moe Lane is already asking Rep. Bill Delahunt, who was the DA that recommended no charges be filed why he “put Amy Bishop back on the street?” Delahunt may soon make himself scarce since the Congressman is increasingly having thoughts about retirement. The Boston Globe has the details of Delahunt’s growing desire for a quiet life:

US Representative William Delahunt said yesterday that he is considering retiring from his congressional seat representing the South Shore and Cape Cod, although he portrayed his deliberations as routine and said they are not related to challenges from Republicans who are energized by Scott Brown’s upset victory in last month’s special Senate election. …

Delahunt has held office so long that Democratic strategists said it is not clear who in his party might seek the seat if he were to retire. Some have floated the name of Therese Murray, president of the Massachusetts State Senate, who is from Plymouth.

Braintree Chief Frazier’s assertion that what happened in 1986 can no longer happen today (“The release of Ms. Bishop did not sit well with the police officers and I can assure you that this would not happen in this day and age”) speaks volumes. He says it in passing and yet the phrase is politically the most significant sentence in the whole statement. It would only be true if something fundamental has changed; if some change has taken place that makes information much harder to contain in 2010 than it was in 1986. Perhaps the political scene, even Congressman Delahunt’s retirement plans, have been changed by that circumstance.  But the change is only relative.  We still live in an age of thousand page bills that Congress is ready to pass without anyone really knowing what it says. We are only a few years from the time when Delahunt made a deal with Hugo Chavez to provide heating oil for low income people in Massachusetts.  A lot of scenery and no time to look and take in the view. But we live in a time when we are urged to “move on”. Inevitably some of the things we move past come back to bite us. And when that happens we give them a second look. The faculty at the University of Alabama now know about something that occurred 24 years ago, but they learned it too late. The past will continue to make its mark upon the present. The reason that history is so fascinating is because the past is never truly gone.


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

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