Watch CBS News

Report: Kopp Admits Killing Doctor

Anti-abortion rights activist James Kopp admitted in a jailhouse interview that he killed a doctor who provided abortions, but said he only intended to wound the man, the Buffalo News reported.

"The truth is not that I regret shooting Dr. (Barnett) Slepian. I regret that he died," Kopp told the newspaper in an interview published Wednesday. "I aimed at his shoulder. The bullet took a crazy ricochet, and that's what killed him. One of my goals was to keep Dr. Slepian alive, and I failed at that goal."

Kopp, 47, said his outrage over abortion prompted him to shoot Slepian on Oct. 23, 1998, as the doctor warmed soup in the kitchen of his suburban Amherst home.

Kopp quickly became one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives and was captured in France in March 2001. He has pleaded innocent to charges of second-degree murder and interfering with the right to an abortion and is scheduled to go on trial in February.

He told the newspaper he decided to make a public confession because he believes his supporters have been misled, and he wants them to know the reasons behind his actions. He also said he feels sorrow for Slepian's wife and four sons.

"To pick up a gun and aim it at another human being and to fire, it's not a human thing to do," Kopp said. "It's not nice. It's not pleasant. It's gory, it's bloody. It overcomes every human instinct.

"The only thing that would be worse, to me, would be to do nothing, and to allow abortions to continue."

Kopp said he selected Slepian's name out of a telephone book and that he had never read any news accounts about Slepian or ever participated in Buffalo protests before the shooting. No one in the Buffalo anti-abortion rights community recommended Slepian as a target, he told The Buffalo News.

Kopp said he targeted Slepian largely because his home was "vulnerable" because it had a rear window facing some woods.

Kopp said he scouted Slepian's neighborhood about six times over the course of a year before the attack. Twice, Kopp had his gun and was ready to shoot if he saw Slepian at the rear window, he said.

Kopp told the newspaper he shot the physician in the back of his left shoulder and was "horrified" when he later learned that the bullet glanced off a bone and caused internal injuries that killed the doctor.

"I didn't intend to kill Dr. Slepian," Kopp said. "Why do you think I used force against Dr. Slepian when he was within 10 hours of taking the lives of 25 babies? The question answers itself."

Kopp spoke with two reporters from The Buffalo News in the Erie County Holding Center last week with his new attorney, Bruce A. Barket.

Kopp's admission and his anti-abortion rights views are expected to be the basis of his defense, when his murder trial begins in Erie County Court.

Slepian's killing was one of several violent acts against abortion providers in the past decade.

In March, 1993, Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed in Pensacola, Fla. In August of that year, Dr. George Tiller was shot in Kansas. In 1994, Dr. John Britton and another man were killed in Pensacola, and two receptionists were killed at clinics in Brookline, Mass. Another doctor and another woman were killed in other incidents that year. Three other doctors were shot from 1995 to 1997.

Slepian was one of several doctors listed on an anti-abortion rights web site called "The Nuremburg Files," which listed doctors who were killed with a strike through their names, until compelled to stop doing so by a federal court.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.