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OFFICIAL NEWS RELEASE

 
 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Public Information Office (609) 882-2000:
Capt. Al Della Fave  Ext. 6514
SFC Gerald Lewis   Ext. 6516
Sgt Stephen Jones    Ext. 6513

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 2, 2005


 
 
Reward Increased to $1 Million on
Escaped, Convicted Killer, Joanne Chesimard
Chesimard also included on domestic terrorist list


WANTED FLYERS - Updated 01/29/08
English (PDF)   155 kb
en Espanol (PDF)   155 kb

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, 2005.

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 fire.

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 side.

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 Cuba.

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 warrant.

"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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