When the news came Sunday that late-term abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down while attending church in Wichita, it didn’t deliver much shock.
Tiller had been walking the earth with a target on his back for decades. In 1993 he was shot in the arms by Shelly Shannon while driving up to his clinic. Shannon was a compatriot of sniper assassin James Kopp in the ‘Army of God”, the underground network of activists committed to “direct action”, including “justifiable homicide.”
Here’s a refresher on Kopp from my 2003 Playboy article, Virtual Reich:
Kopp’s most prominent victim was the Buffalo physician Dr. Barnett Slepian, who ran an abortion clinic. After several forays around Slepian’s home, Kopp secreted himself in a wooded area on the evening of October 23 and waited. From this vantage the shooter had a clear view through his rifle scope to the Slepian’s kitchen window and its well-lighted interior. The gynecologist/obstetrician was standing with his back to that window stirring a pot of soup on the stove, his wife and teenage son at the table, when a 7.62 round ripped through Slepian’s body. The doctor bled out and died in front of his family before EMS arrived at the scene.
Kopp then calmly left his sniper’s position, walked 150 feet into the woods where he wrapped his Kalishnikov rifle in plastic, slipped it into a plastic tube and buried it. He then returned through the woods to his Chevrolet where a female accomplice may have waited with the motor running. Within days of the killing, police had tagged James Charles Kopp as a prime suspect by tracing the vehicle tag number noted by one of Slepian’s neighbors. He was also implicated in rifle attacks in Canada and New York that had left three other doctors seriously wounded. Not only were Kopp’s victims all abortion providers, but all were either Jewish or had names identifying them as Jews.
By late Sunday afternoon the suspect in Tiller’s murder, David Philip Roeder, had been picked up by police near Kansas City.
I put a call to Judy Thomas at her desk at the Kansas City Star. She is the co-author with James Risen of one of the best books on the anti-abortion movement, Wrath of Angels, that focused on the siege of Wichita abortion clinics by Randall Terry and Operation Rescue in 1991.
Judy and I have known each other for two decades, exchanging info on the radical right, the anti-abortion movement and militias. We recalled Roeder from back in the day when the Christian Patriot militias and the revived Posse Comitatus were rampant. His name was familiar to us. Roeder was arrested in 1996 for driving with a bogus “soverigen citizen’ tag. When the cops looked in his trunk they found bomb components. Roeder was signed up with the Freemen, a Christian Identity-based common law court separartist group that was in a stand-off at the time with state and federal authorities at a farm in western Montana. He was just one of thousands who had moved into the armed right-wing resistance that spang to life during the 1990s.
Their world became my world when I went to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama in 1994. A year earlier I wrote a piece on the murder of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion provider who was gunned down in Pensacola, the first such assassination in a string that continued for the next six years.
To put yesterday’s killing in Wichita in historical perspective, I’m posting an unpublished piece from 1993–“…with guns in their hands and God on their side.”
I thought I had lost the typewritten manuscript, but it was discovered last week among some files a friend was going through who then passed it to me along with another unpublished piece I plan to post here.
In the years since I wrote this, I have learned far more about the anti-abortion movement, Christian Identity and Reconstructionists–much of it obtained through personal encounters “out in the field”, as we say.
Though I’ve written at greater length on anti-abortion and right-wing terrorism elsewhere, this once-orphaned article may add a little historic context to yesterday’s assassination in Wichita .