The family of a Jamaican immigrant found riddled with bullets to the chest and back at a white co-worker’s Pennsylvania cabin called his death a ‘modern-day lynching’ after the gunman was freed because he claimed the killing was in self-defense.
Peter Bernardo Spencer, 29, of Pittsburgh, was shot nine times – with two of the bullet wounds to his buttocks and one through the neck – after being the only black man invited on a hunting trip with four other people to rural Rockland Township on December 12.
The 25-year-old co-worker who invited Spencer reportedly admitted to police that he killed him in self-defense and was released by Vernango County District Attorney Shawn White.
White has refused to identify the shooter or the other three people until his investigation is complete. DailyMail.com has learned the name of the suspect but has not been able to reach him for a comment.
‘The four individuals who were present at the time of the shooting were questioned and released after consultation with the Venango County district attorney,’ police reported.
However, his family say they are being ‘stonewalled’ and hired renowned medical expert Cyrus Wecht to review the autopsy report.
Peter Bernardo Spencer, 29, was shot in the back several times while being the only black man on a camping trip in Pennsylvania with several white co-workers in December
Spencer’s pregnant fiancée Carmela King is expecting the couple’s first child in June
The 25-year-old white man who is suspected of killing Spencer has confessed to the shooting but claimed self-defense, according to the Spencer family
‘There are nine shots fired beyond 24 inches of distance, or what we call long-distance shots,’ said Wecht, who has investigating some of the country’s highest-profile deaths, including President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and JonBenét Ramsey.
‘It’s like looking at someone who got hunted down, which is absolutely horrifying.’
‘My initial thought is that it’s absurd to talk about self-defense with nine gunshot wounds,’ Wecht told The Inquirer.
They have called on the state’s attorney general and federal officials to take over the investigation into Spencer’s killing, which they claim was racially motivated.
‘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,’ said Tim Stevens, CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project.
Spencer’s pregnant fiancée, Carmela King, dropped him off at the cabin around 2pm and planned to pick him up in a few hours until she received a text shortly after that he planned to stay the night, Jubas told DailyMail.com.
She never got a response to the last text message she sent to him: ‘Okay baby be safe I love you. Call me if you need me to come tonight.’
King dropped her fiancée off at the cabin around 2pm and grew concerned when he stopped responded to calls and text from her and his mother (Pictured: Peter Spencer and Carmela King share a loving embrace)
Spencer’s mother, Icilda Spencer-Hunter, is calling for justice as she awaits answers
Tehilah Spencer claimed that his older brother ‘was slaughtered and killed in…. MODERN DAY LYNCHING!’ (Pictured: Tehilah Spencer, left, and Icilda Spencer-Hunter, right, beg for answers in the death of their loved one)
Carmela grew concerned and recruited Spencer’s mother, Icilda Spencer-Hunter, in her efforts to attempt to contact him throughout the night. She even attempted to contact her husband’s friend and now-suspect through social media, the family attorney said.
Police responded to the fatal shooting around 2:30am when they found Spencer’s body splayed out in the front yard. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The family was not informed of Spencer’s death until around 9am on the morning after he had been left at the cabin. King drove up the secluded driveway to see her fiancée’s dead body in the grass surrounded by police, Jubas said.
She remembers seeing Spencer’s body laying on its left side with his head pointed in the direction away from the residence appearing as if he was headed toward roadway leaving the cabin when he was shot, the attorney told DailyMail.com.
At the same moment, she received a call from Spencer’s mother who had just been notified of his death, Jubas explained.
‘We have been told that there was an altercation and the people who shot him were in fear for their lives, but this makes no sense as he was with four other white men when he was shot and killed,’ Spencer-Hunter told The Gleaner, a Jamaican daily newspaper.
Police responded to the scene at the Rockland Township residence (pictured) on December 12, when they found Spencer’s dead body in the front yard
Spencer was reportedly shot nine times with most of his gunshot wounds in his back and once in his neck
Spencer, who immigrated to America in 2013, worked in construction and contracting and was invited to the cabin by a former colleague, He was the only black man on the camping trip, the family’s attorney Paul Jubas said.
‘This was something they would do from time to time. They would go out to the woods together and shoot guns … drink beer, have a good time,’ he said.
But something went wrong this time. King, expressed her anger online. ‘He was the only black individual at the camp site and is being portrayed as the aggressor,’ King wrote on a GoFundMe account.
King is expecting the couple’s first child in June.
‘He was a good man and his life mattered,’ King told the Washington Post. ‘He deserved to be here to raise his child and to be the family man, the husband, and the hard-working man he desired to be.’
Tehilah, the brother of the deceased, claimed that his sibling ‘was slaughtered and killed in…. MODERN DAY LYNCHING!’ on another GoFundMe account.
The grieving brother said Spencer was ‘MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD…in a backwater rural town where he was completely vulnerable and cut off from everything and everyone.’
Spencer was killed in one of the state’s most rural areas, with just 1.1% of the population being black, according to US Census Bureau data.
‘I just want to know why. That’s really all I want to find out at this point,’ the brother told WPXI.
While Spencer’s family and activists call for answers, investigators say they are awaiting ballistics data and toxicology and laboratory test results, which are expected to be completed and submitted within four to six weeks.
The State Police’s Heritage Affairs team, which responds to hate- or bias-related crimes, was informed about the killing, but Spencer’s death is not being investigated as a hate crime.
White has urged the family to allow his office to conduct a proper investigation.
‘This office also takes seriously any possibility that a crime may be fueled by hatred toward a person because of their race, color, religion, or national origin. Rest assured, the Venango County District Attorney’s Office will take every measure to ensure that justice is sought wherever it may be found,’ he said in a statement.
The Spencer family attorney has accused local authorities of ‘stonewalling’ them as they beg for answers (Pictured: District Attorney of Venango County Shawn White)
The family hired private medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht who has claimed that Spencer was ‘hunted down’ (Pictured: Private medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht)
Civil rights attorney Paul Jubas, who is representing the family, has claimed that the authorities are ‘refusing to cooperate with’ them
Firearms, ballistic evidence and controlled substances were recovered from the scene of the deadly crime.
‘Upon receipts of these reports, the district attorney will review all available information prior to making a charging decision,’ the DA’s office said.
But Jubas claims that the family is being ‘stonewalled’ by authorities.
‘We’ve only received unacceptable answers that don’t make any sense,’ Jubas said.
‘And they’re now stonewalling us. They are preventing us from having our medical examiner, the best medical examiner in the country, do his work. There is no reason for that.’
‘So even something as simple as sharing their autopsy photos with our medical examiner — even something as small as that — they are refusing to cooperate with,’ he claimed.
The private medical examiner has not been allowed to inspect the body or been given a copy of the coroner’s report, but has studied pictures of Spencer’s wounds provided by the embalmer.
Wecht explained that he needs the coroner’s report to complete his work because the funeral home put a surgical instrument called trocar into Spencer’s wounds, which ‘destroyed’ the possibility of further investigations of the gunshot wounds.
The family has noted that he was left with several bullet holes in his head but was mostly hit in the back.
The family has made several demands including calling on the FBI to get involved in the case
The family, activists and religious leaders have pointed to what they believe is a racist double-standard.
‘I would love to see a district attorney who finds a crime scene with a house full of black people, a white guy in the yard with nine bullet holes, and then detains them and lets them all go,’ Jubas said.
‘I would love to see what the response is to that. That district attorney would be instantly out of office the next day. White America would not stand for that.’
The family has made several demands calling on: the FBI and Department of Justice to become involved, the Venango County District Attorney to refer the case to the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Venango County Coroner to turn over all photos and key information to Wecht.
Rev. Dale Snyder, a pastor at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh has lead his congregation in calling for transparency in the investigation into Spencer’s death.
He explained that rural areas such as Venango County have a history of being known as sundown towns – communities which have purposely remained all-white and use threats of violence to scare minorities from appearing in public after dark.
‘The fact is, the historical context of all of this is what they would do during Jim Crow to bring blacks out to make them their prey,’ Snyder told the Washington Post. ‘So we’re trying to not come to any conclusions, but it’s very hard when this happened back in December.’
As the family continues to wait for answers, Spencer’s mother just wants justice for her son.
‘Do your work,’ Spencer-Hunter urged authorities. ‘If I don’t get justice from man, then I know my God will certainly plea justice for me for my son.’
‘I’m just trying to walk the walk and go through how the system works,’ she said. ‘He has to get justice. He has to get justice.’
Spencer is remembered as a giving and loving man who fed the homeless, played basketball with neighborhood kids, worked in hopes to help his mother open her dream restaurant and never hung up the phone without saying, ‘I love you.’