Increased to $1 Million on
Escaped, Convicted Killer, Joanne Chesimard
Chesimard also included on domestic terrorist list
West Trenton - Long-time fugitive Joanne Chesimard
will be looking over her shoulder a lot more in Cuba now that
the reward for her capture has been increased to $1,000,000.
Attorney General Peter Harvey, Colonel Rick Fuentes and others
today announced that the U.S. Attorney General authorized
the federal bounty to be increased from $50,000 on April 28,
Chesimard was a member of the Black Liberation Army on May
2, 1973, when she and two accomplices were stopped on the
New Jersey Turnpike for a motor vehicle violation. All three
subjects possessed fictitious identification, and unbeknownst
to the troopers, all three were armed with semi-automatic
handguns. From the passenger seat, Chesimard fired the first
shot, wounding Trooper James Harper in the shoulder. As Harper
moved for cover, Chesimard exited the car and continued to
fire at both troopers until she was wounded by Harper's return
The rear seat passenger, James Coston, also fired at the
troopers and was mortally wounded by Harper. Trooper Werner
Foerster was in hand-to-hand combat with the vehicle's driver,
Clark Squire. Foerster was severely wounded in his right arm
and abdomen and then executed with his own service weapon
on the roadside. Chesimard's jammed handgun was found at Foerster's
The three assailants returned to their car and drove down
the road approximately five miles before abandoning the vehicle.
Within half an hour, Chesimard was arrested by Troopers and
Coston was found to have died near the car. Squire was found
40 hours later within a mile of their car.
Chesimard was defended by a prominent team of defense lawyers
including William Kunstler. She and Squire were charged, convicted
and sentenced for murder and additional charges. Squire remains
in jail, but in 1979, Chesimard escaped with help from a coalition
of radical, left wing domestic terror groups who took two
guards hostage during the armed assault. She later fled to
Now known as Assata Shakur, the 57-year-old Chesimard is
living free in Cuba under the protection of Fidel Castro.
She is provided housing, food and a car. She attends government
functions and her standard of living is higher than most Cubans.
The State Police has gathered intelligence about her ever
since her escape from jail. Diplomatic efforts have so far
failed to bring the convicted murderer to justice.
One year ago, Attorney General Peter Harvey, Colonel Rick
Fuentes, State Police Lt. Kevin Tormey and officials from
the Newark Division of the FBI met with FBI Director Robert
Mueller. They relayed the details of the case along with the
status of the fugitive investigation and requested the $1
million reward. The lengthy justification and approval process
at the U.S. Department of Justice culminated with the authorization
of the money by Attorney General Gonzales last week.
"Trooper Foerster gave his life bravely in the line of duty,
protecting the people of this State and dedicating himself
to the highest principles of the New Jersey State Police,"
said Attorney General Harvey. "He was brutally murdered 2
years and 10 months into his service as a Trooper. This reward
will help bring his killer to justice."
The reward money will be given for information leading to
the capture of Joanne Chesimard and her safe return to New
Jersey to continue her prison sentence for the murder of Trooper
Foerster. Since 1979, she has been classified as a federal
fugitive and the subject of an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Confinement
"This money sends the message that the passage of time does
not diminish the intent and energy of the State Police and
FBI to bring this convicted killer to justice," said Colonel
Rick Fuentes. "We believe that this increased reward, and
the placing of her name on terrorism lists will bring opportunities
for the capture and return of Joanne Chesimard."
Fuentes said that wanted flyers in both English and Spanish
announcing the reward have been prepared and will be distributed
across the U.S., the Caribbean, South America, Central America
and Europe. Earlier this year, Lt. Colonel Juan Mattos took
advantage of an invitation to go to the Dominican Republic
to brief police officials from Latin-American countries on
the fugitive investigation.
"Our police, just like our soldiers, put their lives on the
line every day so the rest of us can be safe," Acting Governor
Richard J. Codey said. "Trooper Werner Foerster was a hero.
His killer must be found and brought to justice. I welcome
anyone to come forward if they have information that can lead
to an arrest."
U.S. Attorney Lee Solomon, ASAC Peter Ruiz and ASAC Richard
Kelly of the F.B.I. Newark Office, New Jersey Department of
Corrections Commissioner Devon Brown and other law enforcement
representatives were at today's event to lend their critical
support to this fugitive investigation. Also in attendance
was retired State Police Lt. Rich Ryan, who undertook the
initial fugitive investigation in 1979.
Clark Squire, a.k.a. Sundiata Acoli, remains in jail serving
a life sentence for his involvement in the murder of Trooper
Foerster. The State Police continue to offer input each time
he comes up for a parole hearing. In 2004, he was again denied
parole due to the heinous nature of the crime.
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