In 2013, forty years to the date after the grisly execution-style murder of a New Jersey state trooper, the woman convicted of his killing has been placed on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list; the first woman to be named on it.
Authorities said Joanne Chesimard, 65, had been living freely in Cuba since 1984, five years after she escaped from a U.S. prison.
“She attends government functions and her standard of living is higher than most Cubans,” the FBI said in a statement. Chesimard, now known as “Assata Shakur,” is wanted in the killing of Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike on May 2, 1973, the FBI said. Rewards of $2 million — $1 million from the FBI and $1 million from the state of New Jersey — was offered for information leading to her capture and return.
According to the FBI, Chesimard, Clark Squire, and James Coston were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two state troopers. Police say Chesimard fired the first shot at the troopers, and Coston shot from the back seat. Trooper James Harper was shot in the shoulder before fatally wounding Coston. During the gun fight, Foerster was executed at point blank range with his own gun, according to the FBI.
Chesimard and Squire were tried and convicted of the murder, and were serving time in 1979 when Chesimard escaped from prison “with help from a coalition of radical, domestic terror groups who took two guards hostage during an armed assault at the facility where she was being lodged,” the FBI statement said.
Chesimard was a member of the Black Panther Party and later the Black Liberation Army, “described as one of the most violent militant organizations of 1970s,” the FBI said.
“The Black Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the murder of several police officers throughout the United States,” the FBI said in a statement.
Aaron T. Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark Division, told reporters in 2013 that Chesimard “remains an inspiration to the movement” despite living abroad, and he called her a “threat to America.”
According to the website AssataShakur.org, Chesimard says she was forced to “flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the U.S. government’s policy towards people of color.”
The Shakur legacy continued in the next generation from the music of her surrogate nephew Tupac Shakur. Additionally, Chicago legend Common penned “A Song for Assata” in 2000 on his album Like Water for Chocolate.
“In the spirit of the Black Panthers, in the spirit of Assata Shakur, we make this movement towards freedom, for all.”