The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police badly want to get their hands on convicted American cop killer Assata Shakur, who now lives in Cuba.
How badly? There is a $2 million federal bounty hanging over Shakur’s head. And now that President Obama has announced presumptive normalized relations with Cuba for the first time since John and Robert Kennedy ruled the White House 53 years ago, there is hope that the Department of Justice and the State Department will convince the Cuban government to hand over Shakur, 67, finish out the remainder of her sentence.
Shakur, born JoAnne Chesimard, was a member of the Black Panther Party and then the Black Liberation Army during the Civil Rights era. She was convicted and imprisoned for the shooting death of N.J. state trooper on May 2, 1973. She was sentenced to life in prison but escaped in 1979 with the aid of fellow BLA members. Five years later, Shakur landed in Cuba and was granted political asylum by Fidel Castro. She has remained in the island nation 90 miles off he coast of Florida ever since.
“We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973,” State Police Col. Rick Fuentes said in a statement. “We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of $2 million will prompt fresh information in the light of this altered international relationship.”
The New Jersey State Police have been trying to get Shakur back into U.S. for decades without success. But in 2013, the FBI upgraded Shakur to their Most Wanted Terrorist list, the first time ever for a woman, and then doubled the reward money for her capture and return to the U.S. to $2 million.
“We continue to work closely with the FBI towards the capture of JoAnne Chesimard, a convicted felon and fugitive who escaped from jail in 1979 and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, as well as New Jersey’s Most Wanted List,” Fuentes said.
Three BLA members conspired to break Shakur out of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women. They used prison guards as hostages and sped away in a prison van. Since landing in Cuba, Shakur penned an autobiography that’s considered a classic in urban America. She also was successful in preventing an extradition attempt in 1998.
But things may change with the thawed relations relations between America and Cuba after more than half-century, FBI agent Aaron Ford said.
“As long as there is an active warrant for … Chesimard, the FBI will continue to pursue justice, regardless of how long it takes, and are hopeful any changes in relations between the United States and Cuba, will assist us with her apprehension and return,” he told NJ.com.