Forty year ago to the day, Assata Olugbala Shakur, who was then known as Joanne Chesimard, was involved in a gun battle that left a New Jersey state trooper dead. Today, Shakur has been placed on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list, the first woman to earn the distinction, with a reward of $2 million being offered for her capture.
Reports the Associated Press: .
“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 won’t fall on taxpayers, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.
Chesimard, a member of the violent Black Liberation Army, was convicted of the 1973 murder of state 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.
Shakur has long disputed the charges leveled against her, insisting she was framed by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Gaining notoriety as a “political prisoner,” she has won the admiration from many including MC’s like Common and Chuck D of Public Enemy.
Nevertheless, the government wants to get their hands on Assata.
“Our resolve to capture Joanne Chesimard does not diminish with the passage of time,” said New Jersey state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa. “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.”
Shakur has been living in Cuba since at least 1984. The country, recently visited by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, has no extradition agreement with the United States and many “political prisoners” reside in the island nation.