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D.A. Declines Charges In Case Of Black Man Shot While Camping With White Friends
Peter Spencer, who was Black, was shot by one of the white men he went on a camping trip with in rural Pennsylvania last December. The district attorney says that charges aren't warranted.
A man who fatally shot a guest at his cabin in Pennsylvania nine times did so out of self-defense, a county district attorney has determined while pushing back against criticism that the investigation lacked transparency.
Evidence from the case supported witness accounts that Peter Spencer, 29, of Pittsburgh, was shot early Dec. 12 at the cabin in Venango County while he was high on psychedelic mushrooms, firing an assault rifle and threatening others. No charges will be filed, District Attorney D. Shawn White said Tuesday.
Spencer's family and their attorney had criticized the state police investigation as lacking transparency. A few dozen people marched last month in Pittsburgh calling for justice in the case.
White said his silence on the matter was due to policies barring him from commenting on an ongoing case until the investigation was over.
A message was left Wednesday with White to ask whether the policies barred him from updating the family. Paul Jubas, an attorney representing Spencer's family, said the D.A.'s decision was disappointing but not surprising.
Spencer, a Jamaican immigrant, was Black, and the others who were at the cabin are white, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The man who shot Spencer had invited him and three other people to his family's cabin for a weekend getaway. Some members of the group consumed alcohol and marijuana and later psychedelic mushrooms, White said.
Members of the group told authorities Spencer began acting erratically, demanding that the others build the fire larger, talking loudly and sometimes unintelligibly and claiming to be a deity.
He then got an assault rifle he had brought and began firing into the air, White said. A neighbor confirmed hearing sporadic gunfire from the camp before the final shooting, he said.
Spencer took the keys to vehicles at gunpoint from two members of the group who tried to leave and then threatened to "shoot up the place," White said. The host of the gathering, who said he had been trying to calm him down but now feared that all would be killed, drew and fired his own pistol repeatedly at Spencer, who was facing him, White said.
Images on Spencer's phone confirmed that he and the shooter knew each other and images from earlier in the day showed the group amicably taking part in activities, White said.
Toxicology tests on Spencer revealed the presence of a mushroom hallucinogenic "that can cause panic attacks and psychosis," White said. While such mushrooms can cause euphoric hallucinations, an overdose can quickly send someone not accustomed to them "to a dark place full of anger, distrust and anxiety," White said.
It was unclear whether the man who shot Spencer also consumed drugs or alcohol.
White said the evidence didn't support any suggestion that Spencer was shot while fleeing, wounded then executed or lured to the cabin to be killed.
The Pennsylvania State Police Heritage Affairs Section, which investigates hate crimes, said they were brought in to look for indications of racial bias and found none.
The shooting constituted self-defense under state law, White said.