On May 2, New Jersey’s state troopers mourn the death of Trooper Werner Foerster.
“The lasting wounds of the assassination of Trooper Werner Foerster #2608 on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike forty-six years ago today are far from healed within the ranks of the New Jersey State Police,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey. “In fact, it will take a number of remedies for the members of the New Jersey State Police to even begin to place some sort of closure on the events of the last patrol of Trooper Foerster on May 2, 1973.”
Foerster, who was 34 at the time of his death, was executed by Joanne Chesimard and Zayd Malik after the two opened fire on Foerster and his partner, James Harper, during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in East Brunswick on this day in 1973.
Malik was killed in the gunfight. Harper and Chesimard, who was then using the name Assata Shakur, were wounded.
Following the shootout, Chesimard was arrested, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, but she escaped in 1980 and was granted political asylum in Cuba four years later.
“The nation of Cuba must unequivocally detain and extradite Joanne Chesimard back to the United States, as she still remains a fugitive from justice by the New Jersey State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Blanchard said. “In fact, a two-million-dollar reward is still to be claimed for the return of this domestic terrorist and the FBI is in the process of placing Chesimard back on the Ten Most Wanted List.”
New Jersey State Police have long sought Chesimard’s extradition, though those efforts have met little success.
The STFA raised alarms last month after NAACP Vice President of Civic Engagement Jamal Watkins quoted from a book Chesimard wrote while in prison at a Washington D.C. conference attended by a number of Democratic presidential candidates, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
None of the candidates were on stage during that speech.
“Although those candidates were afforded the plausible deniability of ‘not being present’ when a creed of the domestic terrorist and convicted murderer was recited, it is appalling the organizers of the event felt the audacious need to laud the fugitive from justice’s words at all,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard called for New Jersey’s business and community leaders to stop engaging with Cuba in any way.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 100,000 Cuban Americans, a little more than 1% of the state’s population, in New Jersey in 2017.
“Business and community leaders as well as legislators must cease their efforts to attempt to engage the nation of Cuba in any way shape or form,” Blanchard said. “Let us be clear: No engagement with Cuba, especially with any interests involving the State of New Jersey or its citizens, should be undertaken until Joanne Chesimard is returned to US soil, in handcuffs, in order to complete her life sentence for the murder of Trooper Foerster.”
Blanchard specifically called for legislators, community and business leaders to step away from Engage Cuba, a Washington-based lobbying group that advocates for pro-engagement policies on the federal level.
A group of legislators and other state leaders in March joined the push for statewide support for normalized relations with Cuba.
Blanchard thanked five members of the State Assembly — Wayne DeAngelo, Robert Karabinchak, Anthony Verrelli, Nancy Pinkin and Carol Murphy — who have since withdrawn from the group.
The STFA president gave special thanks to Assemblyman Joe Howarth, who in April introduced a bill requiring the state to divest pension funds from companies that do business with Cuba, citing the country’s sheltering of Chesimard.
“This proposed legislation will prohibit pension funds from being invested in any company that maintains an equity tie to the nation of Cuba until Chesimard is returned to serve her life sentence,” Blanchard said. “The New Jersey State Police family looks forward to justice being served in the case of the assassination of Trooper Foerster so that we may continue to proudly honor his memory, service, and sacrifice while no longer languishing for justice to prevail in this forty-six-year horror story.”