The reward for the capture and return of a fugitive member of a black militant group convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper was doubled to $2 million Thursday on the 40th anniversary of the bloody gun battle.
The FBI also announced it has made Joanne Chesimard, now living in Cuba as Assata Shakur, the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorists.
“She continues to flaunt her freedom in the face of this horrific crime,” State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said at a news conference Thursday. Fuentes called the case “an open wound” for troopers in New Jersey and around the country.
The Justice Dept. has maintained a $1 million reward for information leading to her capture. The additional money is being put up by the state of New Jersey through civil and criminal forfeiture funds and won’t fall on taxpayers, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said Thursday.
Chesimard, a member of the violent Black Liberation Army, was convicted of the 1973 murder of state trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop. The BLA was responsible for killing more than a dozen police officers in the 1970s and 80s, said Aaron Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark division.
According to Fuentes, Foerster and his partner stopped a car carrying Chesimard and two cohorts on the New Jersey Turnpike for a broken tail light. When the troopers approached the car, a gunfight ensued and both troopers were injured. Chesimard then allegedly took Foerster’s gun and shot him twice in the head as he lay on the ground.
She was convicted in 1977 but escaped from prison in New Jersey in November 1979 with the help of accomplices. She spent the next few years living in safe houses, two of which were in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, before surfacing in Cuba in 1984, Fuentes said.
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