(NEW YORK) — Authorities will not bring any charges against the man accused of fatally shooting Jamaican immigrant Peter Spencer nine times on a camping trip in western Pennsylvania last December.
“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 Shawn White told reporters Tuesday.
“This is my call,” he added. “I believe it’s the right one.”
Spencer who is Black, went on a camping trip with a co-worker, who is white, in Rockland Township, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 11, 2021. A few hours after going on the trip, in the early hours of Dec. 12, Pennsylvania State Police were called to the scene and Spencer was found on the front lawn of the rural cabin with nine bullet wounds in his body, including six in his chest.
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, which investigates hate crimes, but Corp. Aaron Allen, the 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.
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.
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