- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

Anti-abortionist James Kopp was arrested yesterday by French police in the 1998 murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was killed by a sniper's bullet in the kitchen of his suburban Buffalo, N.Y., home.

Dr. Slepian's death, according to authorities, was linked to four other shootings of doctors who performed abortions in Canada and the United States.

Mr. Kopp, 46, the subject of a 30-month international manhunt and included on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, was taken into custody without incident in an afternoon raid by French National Police in Dinan, a town in the Brittany region in northwestern France.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said extradition proceedings had begun and the Justice Department "was committed to bringing Mr. Kopp back to the United States to face these charges."

Mr. Kopp was indicted on federal charges of using deadly force to prevent Dr. Slepian from providing legally available health services, the attorney general said, adding that "he did so using a firearm to commit a crime of violence."

"Violence is not a way to resolve our differences," Mr. Ashcroft said, adding that was why laws had been enacted to cover such crimes. "I intend to enforce those laws. This enforcement action … is simply one of those opportunities to do what is right and to avoid the kind of violence and injustice that would otherwise occur."

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, who joined Mr. Ashcroft in announcing the arrest, described Dr. Slepian's killing as a "particularly egregious and violent action."

"If you remember, Dr. Slepian was murdered in his home in the presence of his four sons and his wife," he said. "So this is a case where the capture of the charged defendant is particularly gratifying for those of us who are charged with protecting the people and enforcing our laws."

Mr. Freeh said the FBI learned several weeks ago Mr. Kopp was living in France and it had worked with international authorities to find him. He said Mr. Kopp, at the time of the arrest, was about to leave the country and was waiting to receive some cash.

"We also know from the course of the investigation he took particular steps to avoid detection and capture, including the use of public phones, anonymous e-mail-type communications, and a lot of deliberate efforts to avoid apprehension and location," Mr. Freeh said.

Mr. Freeh, asked whether France would permit Mr. Kopp's extradition if he faces the death penalty, said the United States has an extradition treaty with France and despite "a lot of restrictions with respect to the penalty … we expect he will be extradited."

Also yesterday, two persons described as pro-life activists were arrested and held without bail on charges of plotting to hide Mr. Kopp in New York City.

A federal complaint accuses Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi of renting an apartment under an alias "as a safe house" for Mr. Kopp. Mr. Malvasi pleaded guilty in 1987 to dynamiting a clinic and planting a bomb at another.

Mr. Kopp, of St. Albans, Vt., was nicknamed "Atomic Dog" in anti-abortion circles and was arrested several times between 1990 and 1998 at pro-life rallies. His car was spotted in Dr. Slepian's neighborhood in the weeks before the shooting and was found abandoned at Newark International Airport in New Jersey in December 1998.

Dr. Slepian, 52, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was killed Oct. 23, 1998, shortly after returning to his Amherst, N.Y., home outside Buffalo with his wife and four children from a synagogue.

Authorities said he had long been a target of anti-abortion protesters and was killed by a bullet from a high-powered rifle fired through a kitchen window. The bullet hit Dr. Slepian, who was heating soup in his kitchen, in the back, piercing his lungs.

They said Dr. Slepian's name had been included on a list of abortion doctors marked for death and circulated on the Internet. Within a few hours of his death, his name was deleted.

The doctor's four sons, ages 7 to 15, were home at the time. His eldest son, Andy, was watching a Buffalo Sabres hockey game on TV when he heard the shot. He ran into the kitchen and found his father on the floor.

Dr. Slepian was one of five doctors who have come under sniper attack in northern New York and Canada since 1994, but the first to be fatally wounded. Three Canadian doctors and another near Rochester, N.Y., were wounded in separate attacks. In each instance, the doctors were shot with a high-powered rifle through windows in their homes.

Investigators said the discovery of a scope-equipped rifle buried near the Slepian home a few months after the shooting represented a major breakthrough. Mr. Kopp also was linked through DNA testing to a strand of hair found near where the sniper fired, authorities said.

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