When Sundiata Acoli was a member of the Black Liberation Army, he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. The case became national news, and BLM supporters have been lobbying for his release. After a shocking turn of events, the trooper’s family is speaking out after the cop killer was set free.
The American justice system isn’t perfect, but most of us would like to believe that when it comes to horrendous crimes, juries get it right. So, when Clark Edward Squire, who changed his name to Sundiata Acoli and was part of the terrorist organization called the Black Liberation Army, was given life in prison for the first-degree murder of a state trooper, most Americans felt justice was served.
The murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster became a national news story after Acoli’s accomplice, Joanne Chesmaird, escaped prison and fled to Cuba. Chesimard, who is known as Assata Shakur, has become a folk hero of the Black Lives Matter movement along with Acoli. Shakur remains on the FBI’s most-wanted list while BLM supporters labeled Acoli a “US political prisoner,” calling for his release.
According to the FBI, Assata Shakur was wanted for several felonies including bank robbery at the time of the 1973 shooting incident. Shakur was with her Black Liberation Army partner and Sundiata Acoli when they were pulled over for a motor vehicle violation. The trio was armed to the teeth. The FBI states Trooper Foerster frisked Acoli and uncovered his pistol and ammunition, and then, Acoli attempted to take the state trooper’s gun. A shootout ensued, and Trooper Foerster was shot and killed with his own service weapon.
At his trial in 1974, Acoli was convicted of first-degree murder of a peace officer and given life in prison. However, when “life in prison” was set at 25 years, Acoli was eligible for parole if he met the conditions set out by the state board. He never did. “The state had cited a lack of remorse in its repeat denials of parole for Acoli. In a lengthy interview at his last hearing, for example, Acoli submitted that Foerster could have been killed by ‘friendly fire.’ Prosecutors say that’s clearly not the case,” NBC News reported.
In fact, the court said in 2019, “Acoli lacked insight into his criminal behavior, denied key aspects of his crimes, and minimized his criminal conduct and anti-social behavior.” That all changed in a shocking turn of events when the court overturned the parole board’s past eight decisions. In the narrow 3-2 ruling released, the New Jersey Supreme Court said there was “no substantial credible evidence” to support the state parole board’s findings that the release of Sundiata Acoli presents an ongoing danger to the public, NBC added.
After hearing the news that Acoli would go free, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan said Foerster’s widow is “as devastated and disappointed by this decision” as he is, Fox News reported. Foerster’s nephew, who is a sergeant with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department, was outraged. “Terrible news today Uncle Werner, one of the killers that took you from us is being released on parole!” Sgt. Jason Young wrote on the trooper’s memorial page.
Trooper Foerster’s nephew had more to say. “The court ruled there was not ‘substantial credible evidence’ to support the parole board’s findings that his release presented a danger to the public,” Sgt Young declared. “I guess a person that is willing to kill a New Jersey State Trooper out of pure hatred doesn’t present a danger to the public? I miss you and continue to think of you often.”
New Jersey’s governor said he was “deeply disappointed” by the State Supreme Court’s decision to release “a man who murdered Trooper Werner Foerster in cold blood,” and he pointed to a law passed after Acoli was convicted that requires life in prison without the possibility of parole for cop killers, New York Post reported.
A heart-wrenching message from Colonel Callahan appeared on the New Jersey State Police Facebook page. “Trooper Foerster was not given a second chance when he was murdered on the New Jersey turnpike, leaving behind a widow and a three-year-old son,” the statement read. “Under today’s law, Acoli would be in prison for life without the possibility of parole,” the statement continued.
“While we cannot change the laws when this murder occurred, I was hopeful that understanding the risks law enforcement officers face on a daily basis would have helped keep Acoli in prison for the rest of his life,” Callahan said. Meanwhile, the supporters of Sundiata Acoli set up a donations page for the convicted felon “to help support his return home.”
Sundiata Acoli never showed remorse for the murder of Trooper Foerster. In fact, at one point he told the parole board he thought Foerster was killed by “friendly fire.” This lack of remorse and failure to take accountability for his crime is what the parole board cited as dangerous. On the other hand, Acoli’s supporters said he has dementia and should be released for “compassionate reasons.”
While Americans believe in showing mercy, we are also a country that sees some crimes as being so horrific that they require life in prison. Others go so far as to say the death penalty is warranted, and that’s why the release of this convicted felon is seen by many Americans as justice denied for the officer’s family left behind.