Peter Bernardo Spencer, a 29-year-old Jamaican immigrant based in Pittsburgh, was reportedly shot to death at a rural Pennsylvania cabin last month in an incident his family is labeling as a “modern-day lynching.”
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Spencer accepted an invitation from a former coworker to vacation at a cabin in Rockland Township. According to his family the former coworker is white, along with the three other people in the home, whom Spencer did not know.
“Peter was an outdoorsman from Jamaica,” said Paul Jubas, a civil rights attorney from Pittsburgh who is advising the family, according to the Inquirer. “He loved being outside in nature.”
Pennsylvania State Police discovered Spencer dead after being called to the cabin on December 12. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds.
A police news release reveals a 25-year-old suspect and three other people at the home were detained and questioned, but all were released after consultation with the Venango County D.A.’s Office.
Police say they found multiple firearms, “ballistic evidence,” and controlled substances at the home, but after six weeks of investigating, no one has been charged in Spencer’s death. Those working with his family are trying to get other law enforcement agencies involved.
According to the Inquirer, investigators are still waiting on the results of a toxicology report. William Anderson, chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Black Caucus, says the former coworker admitted to being the shooter, and despite finding Spencer shot nine times, the suspect claimed self-defense in the alleged shooting. Police have also made no mention of anyone being treated for injuries at the time, the Inquirer reports.
Pathologist Cyril Wecht, who is advising the family, studied the autopsy and believes many of the bullets entered Spencer’s body from behind.
“My initial thought is that it’s absurd to talk about self-defense with nine gunshot wounds,” Wecht told The Inquirer.
Cpl. Aaron Allen of the State Police’s Heritage Affairs team, which attempts to prevent and respond to hate-based crimes, said he’s been in touch with Spencer’s family and wants to mitigate tensions within the community. He also noted that Spencer’s death is not currently being investigated as a hate crime.
In a GoFundMe page set up by Spencer’s family, “he was slaughtered and killed in what I consider an act of modern-day lynching,”
“My son was not perfect, but he did not like anyone around him who did not work,” Spencer’s mother told Jamaican publication The Gleaner. “He worked hard, and he was always encouraging others, motivating them to do better.”
Anderson said he’s reached out to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the U.S. Department of Justice, urging them to take a look at the case.