By: KDKA-TV News Staff
ROCKLAND TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) - No charges will be filed in the death of Peter Spencer, a Jamaican immigrant shot nine times while camping with friends in Venango County.
Venango County District Attorney Shawn White presented a report Tuesday that said Spencer's death was justified by self-defense under the Castle Doctrine, known as "stand your ground."
Spencer was invited to go camping in December along the Allegheny River in Rockland Township by his friend, White said. When first responders were called to the scene by the shooter, the report said Spencer was found dead at the campsite along with several guns, marijuana and psychedelic drugs.
Citing witness interviews, White said Spencer became unintelligible around the fire, proclaiming he was a god, ordering the campers to get more firewood and firing an AK-47 into the air. He's also accused of taking some of the campers' keys and phones, and at one point ordered one person on the ground at gunpoint.
"It was the last 10 minutes where his demeanor escalated to the point of no reasoning, loss of reality and absolutely no listening to trying to deescalate the situation," White said.
White said his friend tried to deescalate the situation, but Spencer pointed the gun at him. Fearing Spencer was going to kill him and the two other people at the camp, he fired 11 rounds with his pistol, killing Spencer.
"The 11 bullets in that gun under a fight or flight emotion, would have taken about 2 to 2.5 seconds to be emptied. This is not a lengthy amount of time," White told reporters.
White's report said a blood sample found alcohol, THC and the hallucinogen psilocin in Spencer's system, which can cause panic attacks and psychosis. The report said an uneaten mushroom with psilocin was found in Spencer's hoodie pocket.
Legally, White said his office can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Spencer's death wasn't self-defense. Because of that, he said there will be no charges. He said the autopsy and interviews with neighbors backed up the campers' stories of self-defense.
"This is not a case where he was shot once, disabled and then someone went up and executed him after that," White said during the press conference.
State police Heritage Affairs Liaison Officer Aaron Allen said before the press conference, he had already met with the family to explain everything to them. Spencer's family have called for swift justice, saying he was the only person of color on the trip.
Allen said he didn't detect any hate or bias in the shooting, and said Spencer and the shooter were friends.
In a statement from their attorney, Spencer's family said they disagree with the decision, but weren't surprised.
Before Spencer was killed, White said Spencer and his fiance were already under investigation by the ATF because of the AK-47, which was missing a serial number, and an AR-15 also found at the scene.
"The ATF is responding to a whole other incident or active investigation. They were involved far before the victim came to Venango County," Allen said.
Police said there's still an ongoing investigation into the drugs brought to the camp and there could be charges related to that.
Tehilah Spencer, Peter's brother, released a statement to KDKA-TV:
"What's done in the Dark must come to Light, even though we are not pleased with the decision of the Venango County DA, it seems he left out key information, which we will address in due time."
Attorney Paul Jubas issued this statement on behalf of the family:
"Today the Venango County District Attorney announced that no charges will be filed for the shooting death of Peter Spencer. While we disagree with the decision, 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.
"Next week, this office, accompanied by Dr. Cyril Wecht, will hold a news conference to respond in full to today's news conference by the Venango County District Attorney and PA State Police. We will address all aspects of the case at that time. We will announce the exact time and date of our news conference later this week.
"Until that time, we ask everyone to please respect Peter's family by giving them the space they deserve to continue the healing process during this incredibly difficult time."
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