Hamilton newspaper office receives more threatening packages

Police in Canada and the U.S. continue to be on the lookout for James Charles Kopp, wanted as a material witness in the Oct. 23 slaying of Buffalo abortionist Barnett Slepian, while the Hamilton Spectatornewspaper continues to receive mailings threatening further harm to abortionists, in some of the latest developments surrounding the case of the so-called anti-abortion sniper.

Police released a second photograph of Kopp recently, saying that although the photograph was a year older than one released earlier – 1996 versus 1997 – it more closely resembles what Kopp, 44, is thought to look like now.

Media reports say a car registered to Kopp was seen near Slepian’s home two weeks before he was killed, while another vehicle registered to Kopp was stopped by police outside Hamilton a week before Ancaster, Ont. abortionist Hugh Short was injured by a sniper shot in November 1995.

Kopp is also said to resemble a man who dropped off two of several threatening packages to the Hamilton Spectator in May and July of this year. His stepmother said recently that Kopp may have fled to Mexico or South America, where he once worked as a missionary. Police said they were looking into a report that Kopp may have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, a few days after the Slepian slaying, in a car belonging to a woman friend.

The founder and director of a pro-life home for pregnant women and their children in Hoboken, N.J., where Kopp has volunteered, speculated that Kopp won’t turn himself in because of the gross injustices often suffered by pro-life advocates.

“In a situation with such high profile and incredible political ramifications, Jim is an easy scapegoat,” said Christopher Bell.

He added that Kopp is a pacifist. “I don’t think he would hold a gun. I certainly don’t think he shot a gun.”

Bell’s views were echoed by Edward Taddei, owner of a Hoboken delivery service for which Kopp worked between January and May of this year.

“He wasn’t somebody who would jam an opinion down your throat. He was soft-spoken, well-spoken, mannerly and courteous. He was the nicest person you would want to meet. A perfect gentleman.”

Dana Voelker, a pro-life activist in Jefferson City, Mo., said she first met Kopp nine years ago and has a hard time “believing that Jim could be the same man whom people seem to want to believe would take an abortionist’s life.” She added that Kopp is “kind, gentle, good-humoured, well-read and intelligent.”

Kopp has an undergraduate degree in marine biology from the University of California and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Texas. His stepmother says his pro-life beliefs were forged when, as a graduate student, his girlfriend had an abortion without consulting him. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1988 after being raised as a Lutheran.

The stepmother also said Kopp is a pacifist, in addition to being deeply religious. “He is well-read. He reads constantly, all kinds of literature,” she said.

Police have said that Kopp is not a suspect in any of the sniper attacks.

Meanwhile, the Spectator‘s decision to continue publishing lurid details of the contents of the threatening packages it has been receiving – usually splashed across the front page – is stirring debate in the journalistic community.

As the National Post newspaper recently pointed out, packages of the sort the Spectator has been receiving are normally disposed of by newspaper editors quickly and quietly. But for some reason, in this case, the Spectator has chosen to run with the mailings.

In defending the paper’s decision to publicize the missives – the eighth and “most threatening” of which was received Dec. 1 – Spectator deputy editor Howard Elliott said he makes no apologies for his paper’s linking of the sniper attacks to the pro-life movement.

‘Unfortunate but avoidable’

“The vast majority of anti-abortion advocates are decent, law-abiding individuals who believe strongly in their side of one of the most emotional, wrenching issues of our time,” he wrote. “But it’s equally obvious that this crime is indeed linked to a radical minority who hold some of the same beliefs … That the majority of the anti-abortion movement suffers from being linked to the radical fringe is unfortunate, but unavoidable.”

Vince Carlin, chair of Ryserson Polytechnic University’s school of journalism in Toronto, said broadcasting such information is usually the better choice and is in the public interest.

However, David Spencer, an associate professor with the University of Western Ontario’s faculty of information and media studies, said printing details of the contents of such materials can further an individual’s goal to intimidate the public.

No one has commented on whether the anonymous packages are being sent by pro-abortion advocates in the hope of scoring public relations points and winning public sympathy to their cause.

The latest Spectator package contained death threats against abortionists and police. One photo collage depicted a handgun pointed at a doctor dressed in operating room garb. Another showed a gun pointed at the head of an RCMP officer on a horse, with the words “dead” and “oink” scrawled on the photo.

The package was mailed from Vancouver.