Release of NJ state trooper killer sparks outrage
The president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association (STFA) is calling a decision by a state appeals court to release on parole a man convicted in the shooting death of a New Jersey state trooper more than 40 years ago "insane" and a "travesty of justice."
Chris Burgos, president of STFA, also vowed to fully support any and all efforts to appeal the ruling.
Sundiata Acoli was known as Clark Edward Squire when he was convicted of the 1973 slaying of state trooper Werner Foerster during a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Now in his mid-70s, he was denied parole most recently in 2011, but the appellate judges reversed that ruling Monday.
In a 28-page opinion, the panel wrote that the parole board ignored evidence favorable to Acoli and gave undue consideration to past events such as a probation violation that occurred decades earlier.
"I'm appalled and disgusted that this convicted killer of a New Jersey State Trooper and self-proclaimed domestic terrorist was set free under this appellate court ruling," Burgos said. "Werner Foerster's mother is still alive and still grieving for her son to this day and to have these wounds ripped open again 40 years later is a sad state of affairs."
Authorities said Acoli was in a car with two others, including Joanne Chesimard, now known as Assata Shakur, when Foerster pulled them over. All three car occupants were armed when Chesimard fired the first shot at Foerster and Trooper James Harper. Foerster was killed in the firefight, Harper was wounded and a third suspect, James Costen, was killed.
Acoli has claimed he was grazed by a bullet and blacked out, and couldn't remember the exact sequence of events.
Chesimard escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 and is thought to be hiding in Cuba. In May of 2013, Chesimard was named one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists. The reward for her capture was set at $2 million.
Burgos simply can't believe the decision made by the state appeals court.
"I don't believe any argument that a person convicted of murder or conspiring in the violent overthrow of the U.S government can be rehabilitated. These individuals should rot in a cell until their last breath so that the public can remain safe," Burgos said.
The New Jersey Attorney General's Office plans to appeal the decision.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.