By NAN STAFF WRITER
News Americas, PHILADELPHIA, PA, Weds. March 16, 2022: The white man who shot a Black, Caribbean immigrant nine times, killing him while on a camping trip in December, will face no charges.
Caucasian District Attorney Shawn White, of Vendago County, Pennsylvania, told reporters yesterday that he made the call and he believes “it’s the right one.”
The decision came over three months after the killing of Jamaican national Peter Bernando Spencer, 29. Spencer’s family say it is a case of modern-day lynching, but the DA said Tuesday it was self-defense.
“We believe in this case that there is enough evidence presented for self-defense that we are not going to be able to overcome our burden and show this was not self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, and for that reason, there will be no charges filed against the suspect in this case,” District Attorney White told reporters Tuesday.
Franklin police were called to the cabin at 279 Carls Road in Rockland Township on Dec. 12, 2021, and found the Jamaican immigrant from Allegheny County dead at the scene. PA police said they also found multiple guns and drugs at the scene of the cabin and detained and questioned four people, including the 25-year-old white man and co-worker of Spencer, whom they called a suspect. The men with him reportedly claimed they all acted in “self-defense.”
State Police said Spencer was found on the front lawn of the rural cabin with nine bullet wounds in his body, including six in his chest.
Venango County Coroner Christina Rugh ruled his death a homicide. Rugh told exploreClarion.com that she examined the body at the scene and determined that Spencer had been shot nine times, once in the mouth, twice in his buttocks, and six times in the chest and abdomen.
But all four White men were released from custody and set free. They will now be completely free after the DA’s decision while Spencer’s family must live with the grief of his death.
White said Spencer was using hallucinogenic mushrooms and started “acting crazy” as he fired multiple rounds from an AK-47 he had brought with him. White said Spencer was “not ambushed” and that he began firing the gun and ordered other campers to stay at gunpoint. Spencer’s co-worker then shot him.
Police said they found multiple firearms, “ballistic evidence” and controlled substances at the cabin.
The case was brought to the Heritage Affairs Team, Pennsylvania, which investigates hate crimes, but Corp. Aaron Allen, the black liaison for the office, said he also will not be bringing charges.
“We also have been making sure that there isn’t any hate and/or bias detected throughout this investigation, and I can tell you right now that there’s not been any sort of hate and/or bias detected,” Allen said.
Spencer’s killing has captured international attention, including in Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora, and prompted outrage from Caribbean American and Black leaders who are concerned the murder may have been racially motivated.
His family’s attorney wants the FBI/Department of Justice to get involved in the investigation and provide transparency. The family had sought for the Venango County district attorney to refer the case to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and for the Venango County coroner to turn over all photos and other pertinent information to forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. But with the decision Tuesday, that is not going to happen unless the Justice department intervenes.
Spencer called Pittsburgh home. He migrated to the US in 2013, was on a camping trip with 3 white males and a white female when he was killed. He was dropped off by his fiancée King.
King said she received a text shortly afterward to say he was staying the night. But at 2.30 a.m. on December 12, Franklin police were called to the cabin at 279 Carls Road in Rockland Township and found the Jamaican immigrant dead at the scene.
Paul Jubas, an attorney for the Spencer family, said he is not surprised that Spencer would have accepted an invitation, even though family members said he was the only Black man at the camp.
“He was an outdoorsman and he loved nature. He loved being in nature. He loved being among the animals of nature. This is something he would regularly do. It’s exactly why he would have been out there,” Jubas has said.
Spencer lived in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh with his family. His sister, Tehilah Spencer has said her brother was “murdered in cold blood.”
“Here’s what I do know, this is a HATE CRIME! Peter was MURDERED in Rockland Township, Pennsylvania in a backwater rural town where he was completetly vulnerable and cut off from everything and everyone. He was slaughtered and killed in what i consider an act of MODERN DAY LYNCHING!,” she wrote.
The Spencer family said it is not giving up despite the announcement charges will not be filed.
“We are not surprised by it, this is the type of behavior we have seen from the PA State Police and Venango County District Attorney from the outset,” Paul Jubas, the attorney for Peter Spencer’s family, said in a statement.
While state charges will not be filed, it is possible that there could be federal hate crime charges brought. Cindy Chung, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, will make that decision.
“If you want to know from a federal standpoint whether there’s any hate crime, I’m not competent to testify to that or give you an answer,” White said. “That’s her jurisdiction, she’s aware of the facts. Give her office a call.”
Spencer’s family said it will host a press conference next week with independent forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht to discuss their next steps.