Dr. Barnett Slepian looks to be the eighth person assassinated in the United States by anti-abortion radicals since 1993, according to abortion rights groups. In the 1990s, a series of gunshots occurred in the United States and Canada, injuring or killing doctors performing abortions. Dr.Slepian was slain in his kitchen in Buffalo, New York, bringing the pattern of violence to his doorway. The seventh season of CBC Podcasts’ ‘Someone Knows Something’ explores Barnett’s assassination and the other shootings’ links to the perpetrator in this case. So, if you’re interested in learning more, here’s what we know!
What Caused Barnett Slepian’s Death?
Barnett Abba Slepian was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 1946. Dr. Barnett Slepian, an obstetrician with a practice in this Buffalo suburb, met his four sons after returning home from synagogue on Friday night with his wife, Lynn. Then he went into his kitchen, where a sniper’s bullet struck him in the chest through a back window, according to authorities. Under the cover of night, a sniper with a high-powered rifle shot and killed a well-known abortion doctor. He collapsed on the floor, yelling for aid, and died two hours later. Dr. Slepian was one of three doctors in the Buffalo area who perform abortions, and his death was the deadliest proof yet of a pattern of anti-abortion sniper killings in Canada and western New York, according to investigators.
Who was responsible for the death of Barnett Slepian?
Before Barnett was shot, there had been four other shooting events, but this was the first time somebody had died. Doctors in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada, were shot in their homes in November 1994 and 1995. Then, in October 1997, another Rochester, New York, the doctor was shot in his home. This was followed by a second attack on a doctor in Manitoba, Canada, two weeks later. The bullet did not directly hit the one in Rochester, but it did hit the other three. Death threats and protests were nothing new to Barnett. During the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in 1988, he was confronted by protesters who called him a murderer outside his home. Later, one of them said the doctor assaulted him with a baseball bat.
Following that, Barnett was charged with a misdemeanour and fined. Authorities believed the shooter lurked in the wooded area behind the house and fired through the window when he was killed in 1998. The police were led to James Charles Kopp as a possible suspect in the murder as part of the inquiry. Throughout the weeks preceding up to Barnett’s death, his car was seen in the neighbourhood. James was born and raised in California, where he had a tough childhood. At the age of 22, one of his sisters died, and at the age of 23, another was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Jim considered becoming a priest at one point but was turned down. Later, the former microbiologist became an anti-abortion activist, joining Operation Rescue and then the Lambs of Christ, both radical organisations.
James had gone under various names over the years and had been incarcerated in several places as a result of his violent protests. James escaped into Mexico after Barnett’s shooting before heading to France, where he was apprehended in Dinan in March 2001. He was first tracked to Ireland, where he lived for almost a year and worked as a clerical worker. James was going to depart France, according to federal authorities, and was waiting for some money to come through. He was being investigated as a suspect in four other shootings that occurred earlier.
Where is James Charles Kopp Now?
Authorities suspect James flew to Buffalo from Jersey City, New Jersey, weeks before the shooting and meticulously prepared the attack. He even hid the rifle behind the house so he could get to it quickly. James was found guilty of second-degree murder in a bench trial in March 2003, when he was 48 years old. He claimed in his defence that he just wanted to hurt Barnett, not murder him. For the murder, James was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He was also charged with breaking a federal law prohibiting the use of lethal force to block access to reproductive health care, as well as a weapons charge. On both counts, James was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus an additional ten years in June 2007. He is still being held at the Mendota Federal Correctional Institution in California.