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Crime News

Family Calls Fatal Shooting Of Black Man On Camping Trip In Pennsylvania A Modern Lynching

Peter Bernardo Spencer's family demands answers as Pennsylvania authorities investigate the shooting that killed him during a camping trip. 

By Constance Johnson
Police Lights G

The family of a Black man shot at least nine times during a camping trip last month in rural Pennsylvania is frustrated with the pace of the investigation and calls his death a modern day “lynching.”

Peter Bernardo Spencer, 29, of Pittsburgh was shot multiple times at a residence in Rockland Township on Dec. 12, according to a statement issued earlier this month by the Pennsylvania State Police.

“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 said.

Multiple firearms, ballistic evidence, controlled substances and other items were also taken from the scene, according to police.

“The PSP is committed to seeking justice for all parties involved and requests the public to remain patient until all forensic updates have been received and evaluated,” police said in the statement.

Spencer, a Jamaican immigrant, worked in construction and contracting. He was invited on the trip by a former co-worker and was the only black man in the group, Paul Jubas, the family’s attorney told NBC News.

Spencer’s family wants answers and for someone to be held responsible for his death. They also want the FBI involved in the investigation.

“He was the only black individual at the camp site and is being portrayed as the aggressor,” Spencer’s fiancée Carmela King wrote on a GoFundMe page.

“As some of you know my brother Peter Spencer was MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD!” his brother Tehilah Spencer, wrote on another GoFundMe page.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 completely vulnerable and cut off from everything and everyone. He was slaughtered and killed in what I consider an act of MODERN-DAY LYNCHING!”

Jubas told NBC News that the family wants evidence released to independent medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht, whose previous cases include President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, and JonBenét Ramsey.

“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’s no reason for that.”

Wecht has only viewed photos from the embalmer and has not reviewed any photos from the coroner. Jubas said that Wecht needs those photos to complete his work.

Jubas released some of the autopsy photos on social media.

“He was shot nine times. We have received that word from both law enforcement and the Venango County corner,” Jubas said.

Jabas said that most of the wounds appeared to be in Spencer’s back.

Venango County District Attorney Shawn White said in the statement on Tuesday that he understands the family’s push for information, that his office is conducting a thorough investigation and that takes time.

“This office is committed to provide this information publicly to the media and the family of Mr. Spencer in an ethical, timely and responsible fashion,” White said in a statement. “Accordingly, the need for public information must be tempered with the obligation of our office to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”

White said he expects to decide about whether to make any charges when all the reports are completed and submitted within the next four to six weeks.

“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,” the statement said. “Rest assured; the Venango County District Attorney’s Office will take every measure to ensure that justice is sought wherever it may be found.”

Spencer’s mother, Icilda Spencer-Hunter, told NBC News that she is trying to be patient.

“I’m trying to walk the walk and go through how the system works,” she said. “He has to get justice. He has to get justice.”