Reward for killer raised to $2M
The added funds came on the 40th anniversary of the slaying of a state trooper by the black militant.
NEWARK, N.J. - 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 on Thursday, the 40th anniversary of the bloody gun battle.
The FBI also announced that 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 Department has offered 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 will not fall on taxpayers, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said.
Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted of the 1973 murder of 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 Agent Aaron Ford 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 taillight. When the troopers approached the car, a gunfight ensued and both troopers were injured. Chesi-mard then 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 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, before surfacing in Cuba in 1984, Fuentes said.
In Cuba, Chesimard has continued to espouse anti-U.S. views in speeches advocating "revolution and terrorism" and she may have connections to other international terrorist organizations, Ford said.
"She is a domestic terrorist who murdered a law enforcement officer execution-style," he said. "And while we can't right the wrongs of the past, we can and will continue to pursue justice no matter how long it takes."
Chesimard is believed to be one of dozens of American fugitives in Cuba, many of them one-time members of U.S. militant groups. Cuba does not have an extradition agreement with the United States, but in recent years, Cuba has deported some fugitives back to the United States, including one man convicted of mail fraud and another sought on child pornography charges.
This month, the country returned a Florida couple accused in a custody dispute of kidnapping their two children and sailing to Cuba.
The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Thursday's announcement. This week, the State Department said it had no plans to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism that also includes Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Cuba has denied links to terrorism.
Authorities did not specify Thursday how they thought the increased reward would surmount the issues between the countries, but they said they hoped the increased attention would help persuade someone to come forward.
"Our resolve to capture Joanne Chesimard does not diminish with the passage of time," Chiesa said. "Instead, it grows stronger with the knowledge that this killer continues to be free. Our hope is the augmented reward will spur action that will bring Joanne Chesimard back to face the justice she has evaded for far too long."