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Anti-abortionist James Kopp is escorted from his trial in Buffalo, N.Y. in March of 2003. (GARY WIEPERT/REUTERS)
Anti-abortionist James Kopp is escorted from his trial in Buffalo, N.Y. in March of 2003. (GARY WIEPERT/REUTERS)

The tipster, the police and the unpaid reward Add to ...

Jack Steele thought his life as an undercover operative was over after the FBI paid him $700,000 in reward money for providing information that led to the arrest and conviction of anti-abortion sniper James Kopp.

But several years after tipping police to Mr. Kopp’s whereabouts and ending a series of doctor shootings that began in Vancouver, Mr. Steele is once again trying to trade in secrets from the criminal underground.

This time, however, he’s offering information about a drug cartel that he says was headed by Thomas Gisby, a British Columbia man who was murdered last April in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Mr. Gisby was apparently killed in a hit-for-hit gang war that was back in the news last week when police arrested three men in connection with the 2011 shooting of Jonathan Bacon in Kelowna, B.C., an incident in which Mr. Gisby was implicated.

“You know that old saying, ‘Don’t look for trouble, trouble will find you?’” said Mr. Steele, 67, a former state government employee turned informant who now lives in a beachside condo in Florida with his much younger wife. “Well, that’s happened to me twice now.”

The first time was in 1999, when an FBI agent offered him $1-million in reward money from U.S. and Canadian officials if he could lead police to Mr. Kopp, then wanted for killing Barnett Slepian, an obstetrician shot through the kitchen window of his home in Amherst, NY.

The shooting was the fourth sniper attack on a doctor. Garson Romalis was shot in his Vancouver home in 1994. In almost identical incidents, Hugh Short was shot in Ancaster, Ont., in 1995, and Jack Fainman in Winnipeg in 1997.

Mr. Kopp, who is serving a life term in a U.S. prison, was an anti-abortion crusader whose car had been seen outside the Slepian residence the night of the shooting. The vehicle had crossed the border into Canada just before Dr. Fainman was shot, and officials were so convinced Mr. Kopp was responsible for all the attacks that a total reward of just over $1-million was offered: $547,000 in Canada and $700,000 in the United States.

Mr. Steele was drawn into the case because he was friends with a couple known to be close to Mr. Kopp. He agreed to work undercover after an FBI agent recruited him outside a Toys ‘R’ Us store near where he was living in Brooklyn. “Jack Steele” is his undercover name.

After two years infiltrating the anti-abortion movement, Mr. Steele was entrusted with sending money to Mr. Kopp, who was hiding in France. His tip led to Mr. Kopp’s arrest, extradition and conviction in 2003.

“The FBI brought me $700,000 in cash,” Mr. Steele said.

He said he was happy with the way the FBI treated him, and thinks he “earned every penny” of the reward by risking his life. But he remains bitter that Canada’s National Task Force on the doctor shootings refused to pay him anything because Mr. Kopp was never brought to Canada to face charges.

A 2009 letter from a spokesman for the National Task Force to the FBI, which had made inquiries about the Canadian part of the reward on Mr. Steele’s behalf, states that the reward was for the arrest and conviction of whoever shot the doctors in Canada. But with Mr. Kopp in jail for life in the United States, the case could not come to trial north of the border. The offer of the reward, which was made by the Canadian Medical Association, has expired.

“The CMA considers this matter closed. …Furthermore, the National Task Force is under no obligation at this time to pay the FBI confidential informant any or part of the Canadian reward money,” the letter concluded.

“I just don’t – well, neither does anyone else involved in this – understand why Canada took this position: ‘Screw it. We don’t want to pay him anything on a technicality,’” said Mr. Steele, who is still fuming about the matter.

A few years ago, Mr. Steele set up a website, CanadianPoliceReward.org, on which he aired his complaints against authorities in Canada.

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