One of New Jersey’s most notorious criminals was convicted on March 25th, 1977. Joanne Chesimard (aka Assata Shakur), often considered the godmother or "step aunt" of Tupac Shakur, was convicted for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper and the attempted murder of another Trooper, and six counts of assault. She was sentenced to life in prison plus 26-33 years for the other charges.

One of the murder counts was for the killing of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in Middlesex County, where the trial was held. While Chesimard did not personally shoot Trooper Foerster, under New Jersey law she did not have to pull the trigger to be convicted of murder. She did shoot Trooper Foerster in the shoulder, but it was not a fatal wound. It was Clark Squire (aka Sundiata Acoli) who executed Trooper Foerster, shooting him in the head with the trooper’s own gun. Chesimard was also shot but crawled back into the car and she and Squire drove about five miles before being apprehended by State Troopers.

On November 2nd, 1979 members of the Black Liberation Army visited Chesimard at the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County. They smuggled in .45 caliber pistols and a stick of dynamite. They held two correctional officers as hostages, stole a van and escaped. It is believed that Chesimard lived in Pittsburgh for four years before flying to the Bahamas. By 1984, Chesimard was in Cuba where she was granted political asylum. She has lived under the protection of Fidel Castro, and is believed to live there to this day. The FBI has listed her on the list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” and, according to the FBI website, is offering a $1 million dollar reward for information leading to her apprehension.

President Trump has said that relations between the US and Cuba will not thaw until Cuba returns the American fugitives living there. He specifically mentioned Chesimard. In recognition of his support, he was made an honorary member of the New Jersey State Police. In February 2019, airline JetBlue came under fire for including Chesimard on a poster celebrating Back History Month at LaGuardia Airport; the airline apologized and removed the poster.

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