FBI: Abortion Slay Suspect Devoted Activist

April 5, 2001 -- The fugitive arrested for the 1998 slaying of an abortion provider may have believed his crusade was a divine mission, the FBI said in an affidavit unsealed earlier this week.

According to the affidavit, James Kopp was arrested more than 20 times in anti-abortion demonstrations throughout the United States between 1984 and 1997.

Kopp's sister, Anne Rodgers, and other acquaintances told FBI investigators that Kopp was a dedicated member of the anti-abortion movement, traveling as far as the Philippines and Europe to participate in protests and blockades of abortion clinics.

Abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed with a single gunshot in the kitchen of his Buffalo, N.Y.-area home on Oct. 23, 1998. Kopp was arrested in France last week after a 2 ½ year manhunt and authorities are seeking his extradition from France to face state and federal charges.

Tale of the Atomic Dog

Kopp, the affidavit says, became known for making specialized locks used during anti-abortion demonstrations at clinics (or as Kopp called them, "rescue missions").

A former cell mate, whose name was blocked out in the affidavit and who claimed to have met Kopp while in prison in 1989, told FBI officials that Kopp sometimes used the name "Jack Cotty" and adopted the nickname "Atomic Dog" while in jail.

"Atomic Dog" would later surface in an underground anti-abortion publication called The Army of God Manual, which, the affidavit says, provided demonstrators with strategic advice and instructed them how to do such things as glue abortion clinic locks.

In the manual's dedication, the author thanks "Atomic Dog" for his contribution, and Kopp later told his sister about his mention.

'Help My Children'

The Army of God Manual recommended that anti-abortion activists remain celibate, be familiar with hiding places and careful with vehicles. In the affidavit, FBI officials say Kopp told his sister he would remain celibate.

Kopp's commitment also appeared to be religious. The affidavit quotes a letter allegedly typed by Kopp where he describes being shown an aborted fetus. At that moment, Kopp said he had a meeting with God, who told him he wanted someone to "help My [God's] children."

FBI officials indicated that's when Kopp seemed to rededicate himself to the anti-abortion movement.

"Up until then I had done all the usual things, writing letters to politicians, letters to the editor, etc, etc.," Kopp wrote. "But I think in that cold, frozen moment, my soul said back to God 'we'll do more. We'll drag Kopp kicking and screaming if we have to.'"

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