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article image2-year Hunt For Abortion Doctor Murder Suspect Ends

By Digital Journal Staff     Mar 29, 2001 in Technology
BUFFALO, NY - March 29 -- The man wanted in the 1998 slaying of a Buffalo abortion doctor, who was cut down by a sniper's bullet in his kitchen, was captured in France on Thursday.
James Kopp, a 46-year-old known as the "Atomic Dog" in anti-abortion circles, was one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives. He was also wanted by Canadian authorities for allegedly wounding an abortion doctor there in 1995.
FBI Agent Joel Mercer said that Kopp was arrested outside a post office in Dinan, where he had gone to pick up a package from New York containing $300.
Two Brooklyn residents who provided assistance to Kopp were also arrested, according to federal authorities in New York. They were scheduled to make a court appearance in New York City later Thursday.
"I felt greatly relieved because I think this area cries for justice. And, quite frankly, I let out a little `Whoopee!' too,” said Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark.
Dr. Barnett Slepian, 52, had just returned from synagogue and was heating soup in his suburban Amherst home in October 1998 when he was killed by a rifle shot that came through a window.
Investigators have said a scope-equipped rifle found buried near the Slepian home a few months later represented a major breakthrough.
Kopp, who is from St. Albans, Vt., became the subject of an international manhunt a month after the shooting.
He had used at least 28 aliases and been arrested in more than two dozen places in the United States and Italy for protesting abortion. He was last seen Nov. 3, 1998, the day before authorities issued a warrant in the Slepian shooting in hopes of questioning him.
A month later, his car was found abandoned at the Newark, NJ, and airport. Authorities have said that it was spotted in Slepian’s neighborhood in the weeks before the shooting.
Law enforcement sources have also said that Kopp has been linked, through DNA testing, to a strand of hair found near where the sniper fired.
Kopp had been in Ireland for about a year, living in hostels and doing clerical work, FBI agents in Buffalo said. He left the country March 12 as Irish police were closing in.
"It was getting a little warm in Ireland," said Hardrich Crawford Jr., the FBI's agent in charge.
Kopp was arrested in Dinan, a town in the Brittany region in northwestern France. Police followed him for several days before apprehending him.
In Washington, FBI Director Louis Freeh said Kopp had tried to elude capture by using public telephones and anonymous e-mail messages.
"Going back several weeks we had some very strong leads," Freeh said, when asked how long the FBI knew Kopp was in France. "Our investigation determined that he was about to leave France. Had he left, it would have further complicated" the investigation.
Kopp faces state and federal charges of murder and violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by using deadly force against an abortion doctor. Both charges carry up to life in prison.
Freeh said that Kopp's extradition from France would be a long process.
Marilynn Buckham, director of Buffalo GYN Womenservices, the clinic where Slepian practiced, carries a photo of Kopp with her. She said the arrest will provide some relief for the staff and Slepian's family, calling him "our doctor and our friend and our colleague."
Canadian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Kopp last year in the attempted murder of Dr. Hugh Short, an abortion doctor shot at his home in Ancaster, Ontario, in 1995.
Police also want to talk to Kopp about the shootings of a doctor in Vancouver in 1994 and another doctor in Winnipeg in 1997.
More about Kopp, Wanted, Crime, FBI, Rcmp
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