Assata Olugbala Shakur , is a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a black nationalist urban guerrilla group, who was convicted in 1977 of the first-degree murder, under New Jersey's "aiding and abetting" statute, of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.
Born in Flushing, Queens, New York City, she grew up in New York City and Wilmington, North Carolina. After she ran away from home several times, her aunt, who would later act as one of her lawyers, took her in. She became involved in political activism at Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College of New York.
After graduation, she briefly joined the Black Panther Party and, rejecting her "slave name", adopted the name Assata Shakur. She then joined the Black Liberation Army, a loosely-knit offshoot of the Black Panthers which led an armed struggle against the U.S. government through tactics such as holding up banks and killing police officers and drug dealers. Between 1971 and 1973, she was charged with several crimes and was the subject of a multi-state manhunt. In May 1973, Shakur was arrested after being wounded in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Also involved in the shootout were New Jersey State Troopers Werner Foerster and James Harper and BLA members Sundiata Acoli and Zayd Malik Shakur. Harper was wounded; Zayd was killed; Foerster was killed by Acoli. Between 1973 and 1977, she was charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping in relation to six other incidents. She was acquitted on three of the charges and three were dismissed. In 1977, she was convicted of the murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout, in a trial her supporters argue was unfair.
On November 2, 1979, a group of BLA members broke her out of prison. After living as a fugitive, she emerged in Cuba in 1984, where she received political asylum. She has lived in Cuba ever since, despite U.S. government efforts to have her returned.