Thursday, November 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

$2M reward for woman who killed NJ trooper 40 years ago

Story Highlights
  • A $2 million reward was offered for information on Joanne Chesimard.
  • Chesimard was convicted of killing a N.J. State Trooper 40 years ago.
  • Chesimard is the step-aunt of late rapper Tupac Shakur.
Gallery: $2M reward for woman who killed NJ trooper 40 years ago

A reward of up to $2 million was offered today for information leading to the capture of Joanne Chesimard, once a member of the Black Liberation Army, who was convicted of killing a New Jersey State Trooper during a shootout 40 years ago.

The FBI already had been offering a reward of $1 million in the case.  Officials today announced an additional $1 million bounty from the State of New Jersey on the anniversary of the slaying.

Chesimard was imprisoned but fled to Cuba after a daring escape in 1979 with the help of a group of accomplices that took two guards hostage.  She has been named a Most Wanted Terrorist by the FBI and is the first woman to make the FBIs list of top terrorists.

Chesimard is the step-aunt of the late rap star Tupac Shakur.

Now 65, Chesimard is said to be living in Cuba under the name Assata Shakur. The FBI announced the new reward money this morning, along with the New Jersey State Police. Chesimard has long been one of U.S. law enforcement's longest wanted - if not most despised - cop killers. There is no statute of limitations on the murder.  She was convicted of felony murder for her role in the execution-style killing of Trooper Werner Foerster.

On May 2, 1973, Chesimard was the front-seat passenger in a Pontiac LeMans heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was traveling to Philadelphia or Washington with two other members of the Black Liberation Army, an organization that advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government and the killing of police officers.

According to evidence at her trial, Trooper James Harper spotted a broken taillight and pulled the Pontiac over about 200 yards from state police headquarters, then in East Brunswick. Soon, Trooper Werner Foerster arrived as backup.

Harper became suspicious when the driver, Clark Squire, could not say who owned the Pontiac, which had Vermont plates. Foerster frisked Squire and found a fully loaded .380-caliber ammunition clip in his pocket.

Seconds later, Chesimard opened fire with a 9mm pistol, hitting Harper in the shoulder. She squeezed off two more shots at Foerster as she scrambled out of the car.

Harper shot Chesimard twice. She collapsed to the ground.

Foerster was on the ground behind his cruiser, his arm broken by a slug from Squire's .380, as Harper ran to headquarters for help.

It's unclear what happened after that. But somebody who had been riding in the car fired two shots into Foerster's skull.

Chesimard and Squire were arrested five miles down the turnpike.

Frank Kummer PHILLY.COM
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