Two cops who worked for the Braintree police department back on Dec. 6, 1986 have completely different versions of what happened that day, when Amy Bishop was brought in for questioning after she shot and killed her younger, teenage brother, Seth.
One of the cops was involved in capturing Bishop after she fled from her home, the scene of the shooting. His name is Ron Solimini. His version seems believable.
The other cop was the Chief of the Braintree police at the time. His name is John Polio. His version, which has included a few variations in recent news reports, seems very hard to believe.
The extent to which these two cops' stories differ illustrates how large and disturbing a gap remains at the core of the accounts of how the Braintree police responded in 1986. Indeed, it helps explain why Norfolk District Attorney William Keating recently requested that Quincy District Court Judge Mark Coven conduct an inquest into Seth Bishop's death.
Ron Solimini is a Braintree cop who, with fellow cop Timothy Murphy, apprehended and handcuffed Amy Bishop soon after she had shot and killed her younger brother, Seth on Dec. 6, 1986. Minutes earlier, Bishiop had pointed her shotgun at two employees of a nearby auto dealership's auto body shop and demanded a getaway car. Solimini wrote a police report that described how he and Murphy captured Bishop. After Solimini returned to the police station, his lawyer told reporters recently, he recalled that Braintree police Lt. James Sullivan, who was questioning Bishop, had received a phone call and was told by the police chief, or, a commanding officer, to release Bishop without any charges. It appeared that police higher-ups had concluded that Seth Bishop's death was "accidental."
John Polio, now 87, is the former police chief who was in charge that day. He says he didn't know anything about Bishop's wild, gun-wielding actions that followed her killing her brother. In fact, Polio says he knew nothing about that disturbing sequence of events until just recently - in 2010, when he read the police reports for the first time. So, he's claiming, for the past 23 years, he knew nothing about what Bishop did after fleeing from her home. Polio has also denied that he halted the questioning of Bishop back on Dec. 6, 1986 or that he released her. In one account, he said Capt. Theodore Buker released Bishop. Yet, Solimini recalled Amy's mother, Judy, arriving at the station and asking to speak to Polio minutes before Bishop was ordered released.
How could Polio have been unaware of Solimini's account of what happened? It makes no sense.
Polio is suggesting that Solimini and Murphy's catching of Bishop was never communicated to him in any way - either by the two cops themselves or anyone else in his police department. How could, he, the chief, not be updated on the pursuit of Bishop? How could he not be told that Bishop pointed a loaded shotgun at two of his own cops?
Polio was quoted in a February, 2010 newspaper article as claiming he also knew nothing about Bishop pulling her shotgun on Thomas Pettigrew, one of two men at an auto dealership shortly after killing her brother. Pettigrew was interviewed a few weeks ago in Boston television news reports.
"All of this is new to me," Polio told the Patriot Ledger in a Feb. 16th article. "If it did happen, why didn't anyone come forward in 1986?"
Well, that's not only embarrassing, but, astounding given that his own cops "came forward" when they returned to the police department with Bishop in handcuffs. They wrote about what happened in their police report, including Bishop's pulling her gun on the auto shop employees.
Of course, Polio, mysteriously, says he never read the police reports - until just recently (in 2010), when they were found - after a search - by current Braintree cops. They had been "missing" for about 23 years.
Perhaps we'll get a better explanation after the inquest of this case is held. But the potential consequence of the Braintree police "overlooking" Amy Bishop's gun-wielding actions after she fled from her home are enormous. Keating said recently he would have charged Bishop for (her actions at the auto dealership) assault with a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a gun and illegal possession of ammunition. Maybe these charges would've impacted Bishop, and, somehow prevented the path that led her to kill her University of Alabama colleagues many years later.
Further, why would the Braintree police not consider what Bishop's post-shooting "rampage," said about her "state of mind" relative to shooting Seth? Maybe she was primarily "troubled mentally," but, then again, she was seeking a getaway car and threatening violence.
Bishop, a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is now in jail after being charged with killing three of her colleagues and seriously injuring three others after opening fire at a Feb. 12th faculty meeting.
The puzzle of how and why the accounts of Solimini and Polio vary to such an extreme was on display when Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier, held a press conference a few days after Bishop's murder of her colleagues in Alabama.
"I don't want to use the word 'cover-up,' but I don't know what the thought process was of the police chief at the time," Frazier said.
Frazier, in unusually candid comments, said that members of the Braintree police back in 1986 were "not happy" with the decision to release Bishop on Dec. 6, 1986.
Solimini's lawyer, Frank MGee, recently went further when he said Solimini "just feels that looking back on it, even today, nobody would ever walk out of a station having shot and killed somebody without some further investigation."
Yet, under Polio's leadership, the police openly seemed to put the interests of Amy Bishop and her family ahead of seeking and sharing the truth about her shooting her brother. The police seemed in a rush to let Bishop walk away free on Dec. 6, 1986, and then, in no rush at all to continue their interview of Amy. The Braintree police allowed 11 days to pass before asking Amy and her family members more questions about Amy's killing her brother.
One of those participating in that interview was State Trooper Brian Howe, whose "jurisdiction" included being "on call" to assist the Braintree police on a case such as Seth Bishop's shooting. Howe's report, completed in late March, 1987, included no mention of any of Amy Bishop's actions that followed her killing Seth.
Howe said recently he knew nothing about Bishop pulling a gun on people after she shot Seth. He said that despite his requesting Braintree police reports, Braintree P.D. never provided him any. He wrote his report based on "the word" of the Braintree police and concluded Seth Bishop's death was "accidental".
Indeed, Howe's report fails to address many unanswered questions about the shooting and the police response to it. Howe's report, in fact, prompts additional questions. For example, Howe said that a Braintree police captain told him that Bishop was too emotional to answer questions after the shooting, but Keating said his recent probe revealed that Bishop was "calm, collected and answering questions," according to the Feb. 26th Patriot Ledger. Plus, Lt. James Sullivan, who was questioning Bishop, did not mention Bishop's emotional state then, the Ledger reported.
"I think it's a valid conclusion that they did not give me the reports for a reason," Howe told the Boston Globe, in an article published March 2nd.
Many have criticized Howe for not going to the scene of the shooting and for not reviewing the local police reports. Howe, apparently, didn't interview Solimini.
Likewise, the Norfolk District Attorney's office has been criticized for doing virtually nothing to probe the matter.
Frazier, at his February, 2010 press conference, admitted that the story he had just learned was "a far different story" than what was reported back then." (in 1986)
A reporter asked Frazier if one should conclude that the version given (to the press or public) back in 1986 was "fabricated."
"I would have to see the story," Frazier replied, "but, from what I'm hearing, it's not accurate."
That is, unfortunately, an understatement. The Braintree police didn't let the true, full story out back in 1986. Let's hope we get the accurate story someday.