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‘Racial Animosity’: Activists, Family Say Justice System Is Not Acting Swiftly Enough to Arrest Man They Believe Is Responsible for Killing a Black Man In Pennsylvania During Camping Trip

An African-American voters rights organization is calling for police in Pittsburgh to arrest the individual responsible for the death of a Black man. Despite weeks passing since his death, Pennsylvania State Police have only questioned people in connection with the case.

Local station WTAE reports that initially, a 25-year-old white man was detained in connection to the shooting death of a Jamaican immigrant, Peter Bernardo Spencer, 29. Several guns were also retrieved from the location where the unnamed man was taken in by police.

Peter Bernardo Spencer (GoFundMe)

The Black Political Empowerment Project (BPEP) wants answers regarding why no charges have been filed.

Spencer was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in the western Pennsylvania town of Rockland Township in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Police discovered his body in someone’s front yard. Troopers were alerted of a shooting that occurred between 1 a.m. and 2:26 a.m.

On Wednesday, Dec. 29, the Pennsylvania State Police released an initial report but has stated the an ongoing investigation is awaiting additional autopsy results, toxicology reports, ballistic reports and lab results to be submitted.

After analysis of the evidence is complete, the Venango County District Attorney’s Office will review all reports on the case, and then make a recommendation on charges.

The authorities also revealed there was some sort of gathering that involved alcohol and “gunplay,” and since the original detainment of the 25-year-old white man, three other people were brought in for questioning by troopers. They all were released by the DA pending additional evidence.

The investigation will also be continued by the state police Troop E Major Case Team and members of the agency’s Heritage Affairs, a section that is responsible for training officers on how to handle hate/biased related crimes.

William Anderson, chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Black Caucus, has been working closely with Spencer’s family since his death and spoke about the trauma this has caused them.

“This was a whole family that came to this country seeking a better life and their life is destroyed,” he said. “It will never be the same … this is not America, and I am even further outraged that this is someone that came from another country and was slaughtered, shot nine times.”

According to Anderson and BPEP CEO Tim Stevens, his fiancée Carmela King dropped him off in Venango County to go hunting with a friend and when she returned to pick him up less than 24 hours later, he was dead. The friend, according to the family, was arrested and claimed that the slaying was self-defense.

The BPEP rep said, “Which we think is a defenseless defense, an unexplainable defense … we can’t help but wonder if there was some racial animosity and if this possibly could be a hate crime.”

“This is serious and people need to know they can’t do this in Pennsylvania or hopefully anywhere in the nation,” he concluded.

There is nothing in the information released by police to say that anyone claimed self-defense in the shooting of Spencer.

The family has set up two crowdfunding efforts: one to support his memorialization costs, to help start a restaurant in his honor, and another for legal expenses.

His sister Tehiliah Spencer wrote in the funeral GoFundMe, “My brother Peter Spencer was MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD!” She added that the man who invited Spencer camping was a co-worker, who then brought three of his own friends and a girlfriend. All of whom are white, according to Tehiliah. She later described her brother as “friendly” and “outgoing.”

The other was set up by his fiancée. She shares more details about the last night she saw Spencer. 

“He was invited on a camping trip by a friend on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Venango county, Emlenton Pennsylvania. This invitation ultimately resulted in Peter being shot multiple times while in the presence of five white men. He was the only black individual at the campsite and is being portrayed as the aggressor,” she wrote.

“The Franklin state troopers office will not give Peter’s family nor myself any information regarding this incident,” she continued. “We have been turned away several times while trying to reach out for information regarding what happened. In doing so, I am forced to hire a criminal attorney to help investigate the matter and receive justice.”

In efforts to get justice, Stevens stated to WTAE that they wanted to send a formal note.

“I found this story beyond tragic … we decided that we needed to send a letter to some of the key members that be in Pennsylvania,” he said.

“We are talking six bullets into the chest, two into the buttocks, and one we have a different opinion – either through the mouth or from the neck out of the mouth,” he continued. 

The BPEP letter demanding decisive action be taken in this case was sent to various government officials such as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, the Venango County DA’s office and also forwarded the press.

“We demand the immediate investigation of this murder by the Venango County district attorney, the U.S. attorney general, and the PA state attorney general, and that this murder be considered as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism,” the letter stated.

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