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TASK FORCE SAYS KOPP MAY BE USING ALIAS

James C. Kopp, the anti-abortion activist sought for questioning in the murder of an Amherst doctor, may be using an alias in an attempt to elude authorities.

Officials of the task force investigating the murder of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian today said that Kopp could be using one of the following false identities:

Clyde Swenson.

Jim Cobb.

Jack Cotty.

Jack Crotty.

"These are all names that Kopp has used in the past, and we believe it is possible he may be traveling under one of those names now," said Charlene Mahony, a spokeswoman for state police.

Kopp has traveled widely in recent years, but police declined to say in what situations he has used the fake names.

Anyone who sees a man meeting Kopp's description and using any of those names should contact the task force at 1-800-287-1184, Amherst Police Chief John B. Askey said. No citizen "should take any individual action" beyond calling police, Askey added.

Authorities also said they would release an updated photo today of Kopp, 44, and a photo of the 1987 black Chevrolet Cavalier that he may have been using in Slepian's Amherst neighborhood around the time of the Oct. 23 sniper murder.

Kopp has not been called a suspect in the case, but he is the only person whom police have identified as possibly having knowledge about the murder.

In a related development, one of the signers of a document defending violence against abortion doctors says FBI agents questioned him last week, and he is convinced they are trying to build a conspiracy case in the sniper slaying of Slepian.

Bill Koehler, director of Project Awareness in North Bergen, N.J., said that FBI agents interviewed him last week and that it was clear from their questions that they are exploring conspiracy theories in the assassination of Slepian.

Koehler is an anti-abortion activist in New Jersey and one of about 30 leaders who signed a "Justifiable Homicide" petition in 1993, defending the murders of doctors who perform abortions.

He also has taken part in demonstrations with Kopp.

An FBI spokesman Monday declined to discuss Koehler's contention that authorities are trying to build a conspiracy case.

But one police official close to the case said investigators are "obviously interested" in anyone who has publicly condoned murdering abortion providers.

"I'm sure they'll want to question a lot of the people who signed that statement," the investigator said.

Koehler thinks that Kopp is the centerpiece of a conspiracy theory the federal government is developing on attacks against abortion providers, mainly because of its failure to capture alleged bomber Eric R. Rudolph.

Rudolph is sought for arrest in connection with a series of bombings in the Atlanta area.

Koehler said he joined other abortion protesters in signing the Justifiable Homicide petition because he thinks that the shootings of abortion doctors are "defensive actions" intended to save the unborn.

"My feeling is that the people carrying out these defensive actions have a real love for the unborn and are willing to sacrifice their liberty and life," Koehler said.

He said agents asked him questions concerning Kopp and his whereabouts, showed him photos of individuals, and asked about people who might be connected with Kopp in the anti-abortion movement.

"They wanted to know where he might be . . . and what groups he's affiliated with. I didn't have any answers to those questions," Koehler said. "They wanted to know if there was a network of individuals who would conceal and transport (Kopp), kind of like the Underground Railroad.

"They said they were there strictly to locate Kopp, but based on their questioning, I felt that it was part of the larger task force and that the purpose . . . is to try to determine if a conspiracy exists."

Koehler said agents also showed him a piece of artwork that had the letters "AOG" on it, which he interpreted to mean Army of God.

The drawing also had a cannon and a pile of cannonballs and made references to shootings in Canada, including the words "Justice Unknown."

The Army of God Manual explains bomb-making, use of firearms and other methods of violence and harassment to disrupt abortion services.

The FBI has questioned several other people in New Jersey about Kopp, Koehler said, including an elderly woman who briefly allowed Kopp to stay at her home last summer.

Asked whether a Buffalo-based task force is looking into the possibility of a conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Denise E. O'Donnell said: "Our investigation is focusing on the Slepian murder, and any other incidents that appear to be related."

The task force investigating the Oct. 23 slaying is mainly made up of FBI agents, state police and Amherst police.

Special Agent Paul Moskal, spokesman for the Buffalo office of the FBI, said he could not confirm or deny Koehler's account.

He said the task force is a long way from concluding, one way or another, whether a conspiracy was involved.

"We're talking to a wide range of people, literally hundreds of people, including some connected to the pro-life movement, and some not connected," Moskal said.

Aside from New Jersey, authorities said, Kopp has been known to take part in protests in other states, including Florida, Georgia, Texas and Vermont.

Officials said Monday that they do not think that two Ohio men who had been sought for questioning had anything to do with the Slepian murder.

The two men were wanted for questioning last week because a car they were using was seen in Slepian's neighborhood the day after the slaying.

The two men apparently drove through the neighborhood that day looking for a prayer service memorializing the doctor, Moskal said.

"They never were subjects of this investigation. They were being looked for only because we had a report that the car was seen," Moskal said.

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