NJ’s Most Wanted — and Fired NJ Trooper Had No Clue Who She Is?
TRENTON — A black state trooper was fired after sharing a photo of a t-shirt that featured a convicted cop-killer, who happens to be New Jersey State Police's Public Enemy No. 1.
Former Trooper Nyron Harris is now suing to get his job back, arguing that he had no idea that the promotional Instagram picture that he shared on behalf of a relative included an image of Joanne Chesimard.
The Bound Brook resident first joined the State Police in June 2013 and was stationed at the Cranbury barracks. He was told he would not be reenlisted in August, 2017, according to the lawsuit filed in December in Superior Court in Mercer County.
Chesimard was convicted for her role in the killing of Trooper Werner Foerster, who was shot by a man Chesimard was riding with during a gunfight on the Turnpike in 1973. After being sentenced to life in prison, Chesimard escaped from the state's women's prison and fled to Cuba where she has been ever since.
Chesimard, who now goes by Assata Shakur, is hailed as a hero by black nationalists and some civil rights activists. But she is one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists and the most notorious fugitive wanted by law enforcement in this state.
Harris' lawsuit, however, claims he had no clue what she looked like.
"Not only did the plaintiff not know who Joanne Chesimard was, but he was born after Joanne Chesimard became known to the world," the lawsuit says.
Harris says members of the State Police "began a campaign against the plaintiff" after seeing his Facebook post with the T-shirt.
George Daggett, an attorney for Harris, called the lawsuit "a serious case of discrimination."
The lawsuit says the officer who investigated the matter, Lt. Joseph Netti, was "discriminatory and dishonest" and discussed the case on social media.
Information about the case was posted on a private Facebook group called The Outfit, according to NJ.com, which says the group is run by retired troopers. The NJ.com story cites a post in the group from March encouraging its members to contact State Police brass in an effort to stop Harris' reenlistment. One member of the group called Harris' post "a slap in the face of every trooper out there doing a tough job," according to NJ.com.
"We feel confident in stating that that the NJ State Police is a better organization for removing this poor excuse of a human being," retired Trooper William Ames told NJ.com.
Daggett said prior to the issues over the shirt Harris had been recognized for "outstanding service" and called his firing "a terrible loss for the people of New Jersey."
Harris is seeking reenlistment into the State Police as well as unspecified monetary damages.
Both the State Police and Office of the Attorney General declined to comment on the lawsuit.